Primary UK Statutory Sources
The list below is not exhaustive and not regularly updated. Do make sure that you are looking at up to date sources that are in force.
In telecoms a significant amount of regulation is imposed by means of secondary or tertiary rules (e.g conditions imposed by Ofcom), which cannot be directly found in the primary sources.
- Communications Act 2003 – this statute is the main source of UK telecommunications law, and was passed to implement the 2002 and 2009 EU Regulatory Framework.
- The Digital Economy Acts 2010 and 2017 – these deal with various issues, including an update to the UK rules allowing telecoms operators to access public and private land.
- Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 – this is the main UK statute dealing with Wireless Telegraphy and spectrum issues.
- The Radio Equipment Regulations 2017– these implement the Radio Equipment Directive into UK law and deal with issues including terminal equipment approval.
- Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Investigatory Powers Act 2016, and The Data Retention and Acquisition Regulations 2018 – these statutes deal with (amongst other things) interception warrants, maintenance of interception capability and data retention by communications providers.
- Electronic Commerce (EC Directions) Regulations 2002 – these regulations includes the mere conduit, hosting and caching liability exemptions for telecoms and hosting providers.
- Data Protection Act 2018 – this implements the GDPR into UK law and set out general data protection rules.
- The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, as amended in 2011 – these regulations particularise and specify the application of the general data protection rules to telecoms operators.
- The Network and Information Systems Regulations 2018 – these regulations set out cybersecurity requirements.
- Computer Misuse Act 1990 – this Act specifies various hacking offences.
A note on Brexit
Between 1 January 1973 and 31 January 2020, the UK was a member of the European Union. During this period, and until the end of a further transition period (at the time of writing, scheduled to end on 31 December 2020), UK law was subject to EU law.
From 1997 onwards, EU telecoms law was increasingly harmonised and UK telecoms law could only be fully understood and interpreted by reference to the European ‘Community Acquis’. At the time of writing it is unclear how much telecoms law and regulation in the UK will diverge from the EU over time. Whilst earlier versions of this blog referred to the primary European source of UK telecoms law, it now refers to primary UK legislation. However, whilst UK law remains aligned with EU law it will continue to be necessary to both refer to both UK Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments and various EU Directives, Recommendations and Guidelines.
Most terms are defined in both UK legislation and the EU regulatory framework. The UK definitions have to be interpreted so as to be consistent with the European definitions. The definitions below are taken from the UK statutes and do not include all relevant provisions, nor references to case-law interpretation.
“a content service” means so much of any service as consists in one or both of the following—
(a)the provision of material with a view to its being comprised in signals conveyed by means of an electronic communications network;
(b)the exercise of editorial control over the contents of signals conveyed by means of a such a network.
“electronic communications network” means—
(a) a transmission system for the conveyance, by the use of electrical, magnetic or electro-magnetic energy, of signals of any description; and
(b) such of the following as are used, by the person providing the system and in association with it, for the conveyance of the signals—
(i) apparatus comprised in the system;
(ii) apparatus used for the switching or routing of the signals; and
(iii) software and stored data.
“electronic communications service” means a service consisting in, or having as its principal feature, the conveyance by means of an electronic communications network of signals, except in so far as it is a content service.
“interconnection” [means] the linking (whether directly or indirectly by physical or logical means, or by a combination of physical and logical means) of one public electronic communications network to another for the purpose of enabling the persons using one of them to be able—
(a) to communicate with users of the other one; or
(b) to make use of services provided by means of the other one (whether by the provider of that network or by another person).
“network access” [means]: –
(a) interconnection of public electronic communications networks; or
(b) any services, facilities or arrangements which—
(i) are not comprised in interconnection; but
(ii) are services, facilities or arrangements by means of which a communications provider or person making available associated facilities is able, for the purposes of the provision of an electronic communications service (whether by him or by another), to make use of:
(a) any electronic communications network or electronic communications service provided by another communications provider;
(b) any apparatus comprised in such a network or used for the purposes of such a network or service;
(c) any facilities made available by another that are associated facilities by reference to any network or service (whether one provided by that provider or by another);
(d) any other services or facilities which are provided or made available by another person and are capable of being used for the provision of an electronic communications service,
and references to providing network access include references to providing any such services, making available any such facilities or entering into any such arrangements.
“public communications provider” means—
(a) a provider of a public electronic communications network;
(b) a provider of a public electronic communications service; or
(c) a person who makes available facilities that are associated facilities by reference to a public electronic communications network or a public electronic communications service;
“public electronic communications network” means an electronic communications network provided wholly or mainly for the purpose of making electronic communications services available to members of the public;
“public electronic communications service” means any electronic communications service that is provided so as to be available for use by members of the public;
(a) anything comprising speech, music, sounds, visual images or communications or data of any description; and
(b) signals serving for the impartation of anything between persons, between a person and a thing or between things, or for the actuation or control of apparatus.
a person shall be taken to have “significant market power” in relation to a market if he enjoys a position which amounts to or is equivalent to dominance of the market. … A person is to be taken to enjoy a position of dominance of a market if he is one of a number of persons who enjoy such a position in combination with each other. A person or combination of persons may also be taken to enjoy a position of dominance of a market by reason wholly or partly of his or their position in a closely related market if the links between the two markets allow the market power held in the closely related market to be used in a way that influences the other market so as to strengthen the position in the other market of that person or combination of persons. The matters that must be taken into account in determining whether a combination of persons enjoys a position of dominance of a services market include, in particular, the matters set out in Annex II to the Framework Directive.
“wireless telegraphy” means the emitting or receiving, over paths that are not provided by any material substance constructed or arranged for the purpose, of … electromagnetic energy of a frequency not exceeding 3,000 gigahertz that—
(a)serves for conveying messages, sound or visual images (whether or not the messages, sound or images are actually received by anyone), or for operating or controlling machinery or apparatus; or
(b)is used in connection with determining position, bearing or distance, or for gaining information as to the presence, absence, position or motion of an object or of a class of objects.
Last updated: April 2020.