Ofcom Mobile Sector Assessment Interactive Executive Summary

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Our vision is for a UK mobile and wireless sector that serves the needs of those who live and work in the  UK by offering them:

  • a wide choice of competing providers of mobile and wireless networks which we are able to be used reliably while commuting, travelling, at home or in the office,
  • easy and reliable mechanisms to allow consumers to switch between competing network and service providers;
  • a wide choice of good value and affordable mobile and wireless services  (voice and data) - including mobile internet access that is, to the extent technically feasible, as open and flexible as today’s fixed internet;
  • a diverse range of high-quality content and, where appropriate, protection from harmful content
  • coverage across as much of the UK as is economically feasible (and, potentially, going further where that is socially desirable); and
  • protection from unfair practices and scams, including those infringing citizens’ interests in protecting their personal information, identity or location.

The continued success of the mobile sector will require regulation to change as industry changes


Dean on 29 August 2008 at 9:29am

It is great that the mobile industry has opened up porting and therefore generating better competition to keep people or attract them.

However this has led to a lack of undnerstanding of costs as no one knows what network their calling any more. It used to be be family and friends orientated, but due to the volume this is not possible. With this you can never really know if I am making a call to an O2 to O2 and therefore a free/cheaper call or to another network operator.

This issue is much more promenant in the fixed world as they continue to charge against the number dialled rather than the network the customer is on. So if you family or business moved to a cheaper fixed to mobile rate you would not reap any benefits and continue to be charged at the higher rate. But someone is benefiting from paying the higher termination rate, but that isn't the customer!

Russell on 29 August 2008 at 11:05am

"...protection from unfair practices and scams, including those infringing citizens’ interests in protecting their personal information, identity or location..."

I hope that sufficient consideration will be given to any measures which might increase the incidence or impact of unsolicited calls. If, for example, termination charges are made to the recipient of a call, it will mean that they will have to ask their families and friends to disable "caller ID withheld" which has an impact on privacy.

John on 30 August 2008 at 12:16pm

There should be a flat rate termination charge, if the networks can not work it out themselves Ofcom should take the lowest prevailing rate and apply that.

There is also a big problem in termination rates - calls to 07 numbers are expected to be in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They are not - and fixed line operators and mobile operators need to introduce a mechanism to warn you about the higher cost. It is not a viable option in which your number no longer identifies the network to allow consumers to innocently dial an expensive number or the consumer must complete extensive research in to the cost of each call.

Dominic Righini-Brand on 31 August 2008 at 9:22am

I have used a number of mobile phones over the years, and a number of different networks, some better than others. I believe that the United Kingdom mobile phone industry has generally benefited everyone.
I am currently living in Moscow and have discovered you can by a handset for the same price as in Britain, but not locked into any particular network. When you buy a phone abroad, you can insert any sim card you want. It seems a pity that the mobile phone industry in Britain is trying to flees more money out of customers by locking phones, often meaning that when a customer changes network for whatever reason, they also have to change mobile phone. Mobile phones are not cheap, and a change in this policy would help and benefit customers, allowing them to have the phone and network they want.
Until this changes I never going to buy a phone in the United Kingdom, as I'm better off buying the handset abroad, by not having locked handsets, I'm getting more for my money.

Charles Dixon-Spain on 31 August 2008 at 10:06am

" ... where socially desirable ... " Is this socially as in desirable for those people who use their mobile phone to stay in touch with friends or family or socially as in affecting society. My view is that it is imperative that 3G coverage extends to all rural areas – it will help make these communities socially and economically sustainable.

Gary Nortman on 31 August 2008 at 10:50am

"protection from unfair practices" ...

One mobile phone company has just scrapped its 12month contracts-now only offering 18 or 24month contracts. Im sure it wont be long before all other companies follow. Forcing consumers into long contracts - especially during times of financial hardship - is surely an unfair practice..

If a mobile user decides in a few months time they can no longer afford to run a mobile phone, they will still have a huge amount of money to pay to get them out of their contract... a 12month contract minimises the risk.

how long will it be before 18month contracts are scrapped and only 24month will be offered?

Phil Graham on 31 August 2008 at 9:28pm

Customers should have the option of being able to switch network during a contract without penalty. In regards to the mobile internet there's only 2 network providers that offer value for money.

All mobile handsets should be supplied unlocked. The handsets should cost less to buy and the contracts should be 12 months duration instead of 18 months.

Chris Hoare on 1 September 2008 at 9:24am

I understand that networks need to lock phones if they provide them at discounted prices; however, the cost of unlocking should decrease over time, until after a period, say 5 years, they can be unlocked and transferred to another network for nothing.

A Hayes on 3 September 2008 at 9:40am

I don't have a particular issue with phones locked into specific providers - after all, you are generally buying them at a fraction of their true cost when you take out/renew the contract. However, I do take issue with the increasing costs of upgrading on an existing contract. Where once it was pretty cheap (at least as cheap as starting with a totally new contract) now it is priced according to past usage (i.e. money generated from calls, etc.). This is surely a wasteful situation from the providers point of view also - it is often cheaper to scrap a contract at the end of the term and go for a new deal on whatever handset you fancy, with the same provider potentially.

I don't think services are affordable at present - especially data services. This is where the growth in demand and potential new services will come (assisted living agenda etc.) and it is currently priced above the level many will be willing/able to afford. This is particularly important as the data service isn't even particularly good (not mature enough), with slow speeds, patchy coverage and limited hand-off to wi-fi where it is available. Will consumers be put off by high prices and inflated claims (much like WAP) about performance and content?

I've been very impressed with the O2 offering on the iPhone 3G however. As well as "unlimited" (fair usage) data services within the bundle, I am able to connect to wi-fi (home, work, etc.) as well as free connection to The Cloud. The phone (having been authenticated once) does this automatically for me and in preference to the provider data service. I therefore have the fastest available service to hand whenever I want it, assuming there is some coverage of either wi-fi or O2. This seems to me to be how I would expect services to be provided, neatly joined up and facilitating the best service for me at any point in time.

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About this Site

On this experimental site we encourage you to leave informal comments alongside the Executive Summary of Ofcom's Mobile Sector Assessment consultation, published on 28 August 2008.

Alternatively, you can download the full consultation document, and/or respond formally to the consultation (closing date 6 November 2008). You can also follow the debate over the next few months on the team's blog, Mobile citizens, mobile consumers.