Ofcom seeks provider for 10Mbps universal broadband service

Ofcom has launched a consultation to decide which operator, or operators, should be given the responsibility for delivering the government’s broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Commercial and government-funded rollouts of superfast broadband mean that 95 per cent of the UK population now has access to fibre services, however there is a recognition that some homes and businesses are at risk of being left behind.

Under the terms of the USO, anyone in the UK will be able to legally demand a ‘decent’ standard from broadband deals from 2020. The USO will initially define this as a 10Mbps service, although its possible that this could be increased in the future.

Broadband USO

Ofcom says it is looking to deliver the USO as quickly as possible so that consumers and businesses benefit as soon as possible and to ensure that costs are minimised.

This latest consultation will look to see which company should be the ‘designated provider’ and whether they are capable of delivering services that meet the specifications of the USO.

Unsurprisingly, BT is one of the providers to throw its hat in the ring. Openreach won the lion’s share of the public funding available from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative for superfast broadband rollout and had offered to fund and build 10Mbps broadband for everyone in the UK in place of the USO. This proposal was rejected by the government last year.

Hull-based ISP KCOM has also expressed an interest, as has Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) network firm Hyperoptic.

Lesser known names include Broadway Partners, which looks to deliver fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband using 5GHz spectrum and TV White Space, and Quickline Communications, which delivers services using a combination of fibre and FWA.

The interest of smaller and regional firms suggests there is hope that Ofcom will decide on multiple providers, with each responsible for delivery in a certain part of the UK.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.