CMA Urges Ofcom to Get a Reality Check

Speaking to Comms Business Magazine, David Brunnen, Leader of the Network Services Group, Communications Management Association (CMA) says that Ofcom needs to take a wider more realistic view of the UK sector.

“One of our new year resolutions was about Ofcom consultations. We resolved never again to complain about not being consulted. I am sure you’ll be delighted to know that in the darkening days of 2006 the CMA did actually respond to Ofcom’s consultation on how they run their consultations.

Our suggestions included the thought that Ofcom’s narrow definition of the telecoms industry tends toward ignorance of the value of the eco-system – the diverse and multi-talented armies of resellers, distributors, systems integrators and service providers. So, we suggested, future consultations might attempt to reach these wider and hugely market-influential audiences.

Ofcom’s Annual Plan, a relatively slim-line production of only 51 pages, is now out for consultation. The good news is that we all have until 20th February to say exactly what we think of it. Comments can be posted on-line and there’s no need to respond to every aspect of the plan if you only want to comment on a specific part.

You might, for example, be puzzled by the lack of any mention of business ‘enterprise’ customers. The Plan seems to be fixated on the needs of ‘citizen-consumers’ despite the years of reassurance that Ofcom’s use of the word ‘consumer’ was intended to also embrace the very different needs of Enterprise customers from SME’s through to major corporate and public sector organisations.

This consultation document, like so many before, seems oddly adrift – out of touch with what we might reasonably expect of determined regulatory leadership. It’s no use looking here for a plan to sort out mobile roaming rip-offs or the legalities of multi-user GSM gateways or any of a number of issues that might make a significant difference to the UK’s economic performance and competitiveness but which might also perhaps run the risk of upsetting their narrowly defined ‘industry’.

Like ensuring universal access to proper broadband or helping to work out how we’ll fibre the nation, these issues are apparently way beyond Ofcom’s self-selected remit. It is, for Ofcom, important to prove that secondary trading of spectrum might really happen or that one day there will be a dividend at the end of the digital TV switchover rainbow. Somehow one gets the impression that Ofcom – the great supporter of market mechanisms to cure every competitive ill – needs an injection of market reality.

With this disregard of both telecoms for business and the business of telecoms, does this look like a cohesive plan or are we looking at some disconnected ideological fragments? Is Ofcom one leg dis?

The Annual Plan asks you to suggest priorities for Ofcom’s work in 2007/08. Speak now or else forever patch the pieces.”