Regulation needed for next-gen networks, says Ofcom

Ofcom has called on UK telecoms firms to accelerate the roll out of next-generation, superfast broadband networks.

Speaking at a conference held by industry trade body Intellect in London this morning Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: "Our position is clear. Ofcom favours a regulatory environment for the next generation of networks and access that both allows and encourages operators to make risky investments, to innovate for the benefit of consumers and, if the risks pay off, for the benefit of their shareholders too."

Richards said he had written to the chief executives of leading communications companies to kick off discussions around regulation and practical implementation and that Ofcom would host the first of a series of working industry sessions to decide on an action plan and resolve areas of uncertainty.

Recent media attention has focused on how congestion at peak times and high usage can affect UK broadband speeds that still lag behind many other countries. But the government has said broadband will be key to future UK PLC productivity.

The Ofcom chief added that the regulator was aware new infrastructure investment was "inherently more risky" than developing existing infrastructure and that clear timeframes and regulations were needed to make the industry's return on investment clear.

"And they need a time horizon that gives them a degree of assurance for a realistic period in the future; that they know for example that the regulator will not suddenly change the rules of the game to reduce the returns just as the rewards for the risk start to flow in," said Richards.

But he also welcomed cable operators, including the likes of Virgin, talking seriously about rolling out their next generation high bandwidth products at the end of the summer and the expansion of mobile broadband-speed networks.

"Over the last few weeks there has been a step change in the level of interest and engagement on next generation access issues from a range of companies and organisations," Richards added.

Ofcom will set out details of its regulatory framework for super-fast broadband in September, alongside the working industry sessions.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.