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18 March 2016

Ofcom chief promises to deliver on business broadband

Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White has committed to enforcing rules which should ensure up to 98 percent of all home and offices will get indoor 4G mobile signal by the end of next year at the Federation of Small Business (FSB) National Conference in Glasgow.

Sharon White said: “Small businesses are much less well served than big businesses, particularly when it comes to superfast broadband. When small businesses do get a decent connection, too often they face problems with their service, and a poor response when they complain. The FSB has been a powerful voice for change, working hard for things to improve.”

“We know mobile data is increasingly vital to businesses. So we’ve set rules to ensure that virtually all homes and offices – 98 per cent – must receive an indoor 4G mobile signal by the end of next year. That must include at least 95% of homes and offices in each UK nation – including Scotland.

“Providing 4G across the Highlands and Islands is more challenging, but no less important. Wherever Ofcom can help meet those challenges, we will. Today we are launching a consultation to increase the use of ‘mobile repeaters’ – devices that boost mobile signals.”

FSB has found poor quality of service - such as delays in fixing faults and lower than expected broadband speeds – to be a major frustration for smaller businesses seeking to do more online.

In response to the Ofcom Chief Executive’s speech, FSB Policy Director Mike Cherry, said: “Large numbers of small firms are using new digital technology to revolutionise the way they do business, but the market is still not delivering for all and this is acting as a brake on the ambitions of many businesses. Ofcom clearly gets the importance of small businesses – but we need to keep up the pressure and help them to deliver.

“Poor quality of service is a major barrier to firms who want to do more online. Ofcom is right to focus on raising minimum standards and making it easier to navigate the market. The new announcements today, combined with the plans set out in the Digital Communications Review, should help small businesses make the most from digital technology.”

Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications published last month set out plans to deliver a better quality of service across the telecoms industry and improve minimum broadband speeds. These plans mirror those recommended in a FSB report into businesses' digital communications.

Ofcom also called for steadily increasing minimum broadband speeds to be delivered through an escalating Universal Service Obligation (USO), initially set at 10Mbps but then rising in line with consumer demand. FSB has consistently called for the USO to start at 10Mbps. The challenge now rests with Government to set out how to deliver the Prime Minister's commitment on this, with a firm timetable for delivery by 2020.