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Ofcom consultations: copper retirement and WT Act licence charges

Ofcom welcomes views on determining when copper regulation can be removed, and proposals to make the WT Act (Licence Charges) Regulations 2020.

Ofcom has recently opened two consultations: regulations to consolidate and update the fees for Wireless Telegraphy Act licences and the process for determining when copper regulation can be removed

Wireless Telegraphy (Licence Charges) Regulations 2020

Ofcom proposes to consolidate and update the existing regulations that set out the sums and fees payable for Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 (the WT Act) licences. 

The proposal would update the fee regulations to include three new licences that Ofcom has introduced since the fees regulations were last changed in 2016: 

  • Local Access 
  • Shared Access 
  • Network 2 GHz 

The regulations will update the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 (the WT Act), which confers on Ofcom a power to grant a wireless telegraphy licence in respect of a “wireless telegraphy station” or “wireless telegraphy apparatus”. The 2020 regulations would determine whether the fees for the three licences are correctly implemented, as set out in Ofcom’s earlier policy statements. Further changes proposed would consolidate the various licence charges regulations (made since 2011) to simplify the legislation, improve understanding of the charging environment and reduce the regulatory burden on stakeholders. 

Local Access and Shared Access licences were introduced following of Ofcom’s ‘Enabling opportunities for innovation’ consultation in December 2018. The Network 2 GHz licence was introduced in November 2017, permitting networks of terrestrial base stations used in the provision of mobile satellite services and are used to provide broadband services to passengers on aircraft. 

Responding To This Consultation

Please submit responses using the consultation response form. The deadline is 31 July 2020.

Copper retirement – process for determining when copper regulation can be removed

Ofcom is proposing to wait until after its final decisions in the WFTMR statement to consider how to define the circumstances in which premises can be excluded from the definition of a completed ultrafast exchange in which the copper charge control can be lifted.

By 2025, Openreach plans to replace the ageing copper wire telephone network with fibre. It will do this on an exchange by exchange basis. As each exchange is upgraded, Openreach plans to migrate customers to the new network and then withdraw copper services. Ofcom set out its proposed policy on copper retirement as part of the WFTMR (Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review consultation) in January 2020. The aim of Ofcom’s proposal was to promote fibre investment by shifting the focus of regulation from copper to fibre, and to support the migration to fibre services, while ensuring no premises were left behind without ultrafast coverage. 

Ofcom’s proposals in the WFTMR included a period of regulatory transition after which, when Openreach has completed ultrafast coverage of an exchange area, Ofcom would lift the existing charge control on the anchor copper service. At that point, only the fibre charge control would apply. However, there may be very limited circumstances in which Openreach may not be able to connect some premises in an exchange area with ultrafast services, despite all reasonable efforts. 

Openreach’s fibre roll-out is at its relatively early stages, therefore Ofcom is proposing to wait until after its final WFTMR decisions to define the detail of circumstances in which premises can be excluded, which would allow Ofcom to better consider roll-out experience, whilst still providing the industry and customers with certainty and transparency.

Responding To This Consultation

Please submit responses using the consultation response form. The consultation closes on 03 September 2020. Ofcom intends to publish the outcomes of the consultation as part of the WFTMR statement in Q4 2020/21.


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