What, in Telecommunications, has Changed Over the Last Decade?

What has changed in telecommunications over the last decade? For Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, quite a lot.

Since 2005, broadband adoption increased 2.5 times, from 31 percent to 78 percent. High speed access at a minimum of 30 Mbps now is available to 78 percent of locations, while adoption has grown to 27 percent.

Mobile broadband availability has increased significantly, with 3G coverage increasing from
82 percent to 99 percent of premises, and 4G services available to 73 percent of premises.

More significantly, mobile broadband adoption now is 67 percent.  
Purchasing of bundled services has more than doubled from 29 percent to 63 percent.

About 44 percent of high speed access connections now are supplied by retailers using the wholesale approach, up from 17 percent in 2005.

Supplier consolidation also has been significant, including the formation of EE from
Orange and T-Mobile and acquisitions of smaller broadband ISPs (O2, Tiscali,
AOL, Be, Easynet).

The qualitative changes are just as significant.

A decade ago, the key issue was how to create a wholesale fixed network structure.

Now, Ofcom says, “a strategic review focussed on the market structure in fixed telecommunications risks being overly backward looking.” That means mobile and over the top apps and services must be a fundamental part of the examination.

“Increasingly, digital communications encompasses a combination of fixed, wireless
and mobile connectivity, and communications services provided over these networks,” Ofcom says.  

“For this review to be genuinely strategic, it needs to take account of digital communications infrastructure and competition more broadly,” Ofcom says.

The context includes increasing convergence between fixed and mobile communications, associated developments in wireless networks, and the ever increasing importance of “over the top” services, Ofcom notes.

Put another way, that means analysis and has to include fixed, mobile and untethered modes, plus over the top services that compete directly or substantially with carrier-offered services.

Policy, as a corollary, will likewise take into account the full range of access and services supply to ensure “competition, investment and innovation.” Ofcom suggests that, in addition to creating a climate for investment, while protecting consumers, it also will look at instances where deregulation is possible because competition (especially in voice and messaging) will discipline the market.

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