Ofcom adapts to the changing face of communications

Earlier this year, Ofcom commissioned Analysys Mason to look at the digital value chain. It is this study that sets the scene for a more expansive role at the regulator, as Ofcom looks to stay ahead and remain relevant alongside the fast moving tech sector.

The headlines are that Ofcom is going to look to assess fairness in the public cloud sector, dominated in the UK by Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. These cloud services offer the breadth and depth of coverage to deliver products and services to cater for the majority of consumer and business requirements.

Cloud networking is a very different beast to traditional enterprise data and telco networks. Certainly there is no easy lift and shift for enterprises wishing to deploy networking in the cloud. But by running more workloads in the cloud, IT leaders can benefit from the connectivity that exists within a provider’s own public cloud infrastructure, reducing data ingress costs considerably. In the enterprise space, an organisation that can connect its regional and remote offices via the public cloud, reduces the need to run and manage costly wide area networking, which has traditionally been delivered via telco infrastructure.

Changing comms usage

Ofcom also appears to be concerned about the demise of telephony, again an area traditionally offered via telecoms contracts. Consumers may be using WhatsApp or Skype. Businesses are running Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or hosting Google Meet sessions. While these applications existed pre-Covid-19, they are now part of our day-to-day lives. How often do people say: “Let’s do a Zoom call”?

The EU is beginning to look at anti-competitive practices at Microsoft related to the integration between Microsoft Teams, Office 365 and its email services. Certainly, within the Microsoft system, from a user experience perspective, it requires a few more steps to use a rival service when scheduling an online meeting than if the meeting is hosted on Teams and invites are sent via Outlook.

Beyond communications, Analysys Mason looked at news aggregation services, audio books, IoT, mobile wallets, smart devices, PCs, smartphone and tablet devices and the app ecosystem. The aptly titled, Digital Comms Value Chains, report prepared for Ofcom by Analysys Mason, covers vast swathes of the tech landscape.

In the highly interconnected modern world, dominated by hyperscalers, the challenge is how far down the rabbit hole is Ofcom prepared to go? What is its role as telecoms, broadcast and traditional media distribution are deployed via these global platforms. By assessing markets through the lens of communications, is Ofcom best placed to regulate the fast-paced world of high-tech? And let’s not forget it is also the regulator for UK online safety

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