The Digital Economy Act, which was passed last year, created an obligation on Ofcom to produce three-yearly reports on the state of the UK's communications infrastructure. It has published its plans for the first report, to be delivered on 7 August.
"The first report will focus on voice and data services provided to the general public and the networks which support them," said an Ofcom paper outlining its plans (18-page / 124KB PDF). "We will also report on digital television and radio services and networks."
"Over the coming months we will be gathering data from the largest providers of these services and networks and collating data already held by Ofcom," it said. We will continue to engage with industry with a view to minimising the burden of data gathering whilst ensuring we gather the necessary data to fulfil our duties under the Act and produce a report of value to government, consumers and industry."
Ofcom will monitor the performance of landline, mobile, broadband and broadcast networks between March and May, it said.
"We are now proposing to measure the availability of networks and services over a two month period, from 23rd March 2011 to 23rd May 2011," said the paper.
The study will also report on whether spectrum is being efficiently used and what coverage is available for each network. Fixed line networks will be assessed on a postcode-by-postcode basis, while mobile networks will be assessed in 100 square metre chunks.
It will gather some information on the sharing of infrastructure; and will use a mix of existing, public domain and newly-gathered information to assess networks' capacity, availability and resilience.
Ofcom had previously said that it would ask "at most the largest half dozen" providers of each kind of network for information. In its current paper it defined who would be asked more closely.
"The network and service providers falling within the scope of the first infrastructure report are defined as follows: providers with Universal Service Obligations; providers of fixed voice, broadband and mobile services that make up 85% of the market share; [and] the operators of digital television and radio multiplexes," the paper said.
Ofcom said that 22 organisations, most of them service providers, had responded to a previous consultation on its plans
"We will shortly be issuing information requests to affected stakeholders to ensure the necessary data is available in time to compile the report," its paper said. "It is possible that we may have to issue further information requests in the coming months where this is necessary in order to fulfil our new duty. In these cases we intend to follow our standard processes for information gathering and do not expect to undertake further public consultation."