Mobile data transmissions are now "critical" to the UK economy, and Ofcom aims to find new and better ways to use the technology to enhance the nation's competitiveness.
Today Ofcom issued a consultation paper asking for input into how to achieve wider, deeper roll-out of mobile technology, and to attract new entrants, particularly content providers, into the mobile market.
A background study by telecoms research firm Analysys Mason found the UK had 73.2 million active mobile subscribers in 2007. This was 120% of the total population. The four largest mobile network operators received more than £18bn in 2007, it said.
Researchers found data traffic rose 700% in the six months to March. Two networks were already carrying more data than voice traffic, they believed. "The need to support growth in data traffic is now driving operators' strategies for network investment," they said.
Ofcom said a new wave of data-based services "promises to bring together two of the most significant features of modern communications: the flexibility of the internet, and the ease and immediacy of mobility."
Key questions Ofcom wants answers for include the appropriate cost of calls, how to encourage a competitive market through new regulations, how to lower barriers to entry for new competitors, how to extend access to communities that are not yet being served, and how to address a "significant minority" of users who are unhappy with bills and alleged mis-selling.
"In preparing for a converged world, clarity of purpose and technology-neutrality will be vital," Ofcom said.