Ofcom suspends regulation work during coronavirus crisis

Wi-Fi router on wooden table
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ofcom has suspended work on proposed new regulations for the communications industry during the coronavirus outbreak and has issued advice for consumers who are more reliant on their broadband service during the current restrictions on movement.

In a televised address earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the public to stay at home other than to shop for “essentials” or for exercise “once a day”. Groups of more than two participants, other than those who live together or families, will be dispersed by the police and offenders fined.

This means most of the country is working from home, while children and students are using the Internet for education purposes. Inevitably, this is placing more strain on the UK’s communications infrastructure.

Ofcom coronavirus

Ofcom said it welcomed measures taken by companies in the sectors it regulates during an “unprecedented” time for the country, nothing the efforts to make networks more resilient and the additional allowances given to customers. It added that it would continue to work with industries to ensure consumers, key workers and emergency services receive a good service.

A more pragmatic approach to regulation, one that takes into account the difficulties of the situation, will be adopted by Ofcom. But it warned that tit would continue to maintain its guiding principle of ensuring fairness for customers.

Meanwhile, the timetable for regulation will be rescheduled and a revised version published at the end of April. In the meantime, Ofcom has confirmed that all consultation deadlines are suspended and obligation requirements delayed.

The watchdog is also launching a national campaign to give consumers communications advice during the crisis. Among the guidance is a recommendation to use Wi-Fi calls whenever possible, move the router away from other devices and plug it directly into the main phone socket. It also suggests people don’t use microwaves while others are engaged in important activities.

“Families across the country are going online together this week, often juggling work and keeping children busy at the same time,” said Melanie Dawes, Ofcom CEO. “So we’re encouraging people to read our advice on getting the most from their broadband, home phones and mobiles – and to share it with friends, families and colleagues, to help them stay connected too.”

“Right now we need people to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. Reliable internet speeds will be crucial so we can work from home where possible, stay connected with our families and keep up to date with the latest health information, “ added Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“I urge everyone to read Ofcom’s helpful tips and advice to ensure they get the most out of their broadband and mobile internet connections during these unprecedented times."

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.