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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 09/11/18

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Here’s a roundup of the week’s mobile, broadband, and energy news:

EE increases charges for out of bundle phone calls

EE, one of the UK’s largest mobile and internet service providers, has decided to raise the prices of calls “for their fixed line home broadband and phone (line rental)” customers. The change in price will come into effect on 22 January, 2019. The New Year will also see the introduction of a new late fee, beginning on 23 March 2019.

These new charges are targeting “out of bundle calls”, which essentially means you will only be charged when you make a call outside of the free periods included in your phone bundle. Calls where charges apply will be increased by 2 pence, which means that a UK landline connection charge will increase from 21p to 23p, and mobile calls will increase from 16p to 18p. Customers who pay their EE bills more than fifteen days late via cash, cheque or credit/debit card will need to pay a fee of £4.

EE has defended the price increase, saying: “We need to increase the cost of our out of bundle charges to be able to continue to invest in the services we provide to our customers.”

Merger between SSE and innogy requires further negotiation

The ongoing merger between SSE and innogy’s Npower “requires adjustments”. Both firms are in the process of negotiating changing the terms of the merger due to “adverse market developments and regulatory interventions”, which could have an effect on the combined retail company.

The energy firms are still planning to go ahead with the merger and combine the business, which would enable them to list on the London Stock Exchange. Last month, the UK Competition & Markets Authority, “provided the final clearance” for the merger.

The Chief Operating Officer Retail of innogy, spoke on the complications facing the merger: “The planned merger of our subsidiary npower with SSE’s British retail energy business is a complex transaction. Adverse developments in the UK retail market and regulatory interventions such as the price cap have had a significant impact on the outlook for the combined retail company. Both innogy and SSE continue to see the benefits of a combination of the two businesses”.

Renewable energy surpasses fossil fuel for ‘total capacity available’

For the first time ever, the UK’s total energy generation capacity available from renewable energy sources has surpassed that of fossil fuels. A new report has shown that since 2013 the total renewable capacity has tripled, currently standing at 42GW, compared to the 40.6GW from fossil fuels.

Wind farms have become the largest provider of renewable capacity, equalling 20GW. Solar provides 12GW available and biomass gives 3.2GW.

The UK is currently the global leader in growth in offshore wind power, accounting for 45% of global capacity. Already, the Galloper, Rampion, Race Bank and Walney 3 projects have come online. Additionally, there are one million rooftop solar power systems operating around the country.

Despite these impressive figures, Brexit has caused an 18% increase in power costs, which is associated with the currency devaluation. There is also the cost of balancing the power system, which was valued at £3.8m per day in the third quarter of 2018. Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, said, “The cost of balancing the system has doubled in the last four years. The amount of flexible generation on the system is a key driver. Balancing costs rise when the output from flexible generators such as gas, coal, biomass and hydro fall below 10GW”.

Ofcom announces the release of licence exempt spectrum

This week, Ofcom has announced that it will “be imminently releasing more radio spectrum in the licence exempt 57-71GHz bands”, which could be utilised for delivering 5G style connections at “fibre-like speeds”.

As ISPreview explains, “connections at these frequencies tend not to travel very far and are easily obstructed”. However, they are very convenient for those needing home networking or point-to-point wireless broadband connectivity. Relevant regulations will be announced following 27 November 2018, which will allow for a “continuous block of 14GHz of spectrum” to be available “on a licence exempt basis”.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director, said: “By releasing new, licence-exempt airwaves, we’re underlining our commitment to enabling innovation. This spectrum will support new services such as faster data connections for homes and business, and very high-speed connections to support new applications. The spectrum being made available is more than is currently available for the service we all use every day—mobile, radio, TV and satellite TV and wifi technology, and could play an important part in the development of new services including 5G, that will benefit consumers and businesses”.

Ofcom enforces customers’ right to port telephone numbers

Ofcom has warned phone providers against preventing customers from “being able to port their telephone numbers to a different provider”. This practice is “unacceptable and unlawful”, however, it continues to happen.

The UK rule, Generation Condition 18, ensures customers rights to retain their telephone number when they decide to change providers. Although this rule does not apply in some situations (such as if you move to an entirely new network), it applies to the majority of circumstances. Recently, Ofcom has had to “take tougher action” to enforce the rule. Ofcom’s letter to the Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator stated: “Behaviour in breach to the General Conditions, such as trying to block or delay numbers from being ported, thereby preventing customers from switching away to rival providers in unacceptable and unlawful. Ofcom has enforcement powers in this area. So, earlier this year, we took enforcement action against GW Telecom Ltd, resulting in a significant fine.”

There is another change occurring in the market with more and more consumers move away “from analogue style phone services” and toward IP based platforms. Already, Ofcom is working with ISPs and phone providers to make “the process of porting your number to a different platform” more efficient and easier. However, it is presently uncertain when this will come into effect.