The New UK Licensing Process

Editor’s Note:


The following summary of the Communications Act is adapted from: Communications Act 2003 Explanatory Notes, the full text of which is available at:  and from the OFCOM’s The general authorisation regime, the full text of which is available at


All references to the “Act” in this Practice Note refer to the Communications Act 2003.


Communications Act 2003




On 25 July 2003 the UK implemented a new EU framework for the regulation of electronic communications networks and service providers.

“The framework sets out a harmonised and technology neutral regime for the regulation of communications companies across the EU, which will provide industry with greater certainty and a transparent more uniform approach across the member states. The regime is based on five EU Directives that cover interconnection and access, data protection, universal service, authorisation of electronic communications networks and services and a common regulatory framework.

“The requirements of four of the Directives have been taken forward in the Communications Act 2003, and following the enactment of the Communications Act and the change in regulatory regime certain parts of the Telecommunications Act 1984 have been repealed.”[1]

Summary of General Authorisation Procedure

“Persons will automatically be entitled to provide an electronic communications network, electronic communications services or to make available associated facilities provided that, where required, they notify OFCOM of this intention and comply with certain regulatory conditions (known as conditions of entitlement) set by OFCOM.”[2]

Notification Requirement

Section 33 of the Act “allows OFCOM to designate certain classes of networks, services or associated facilities as requiring notification. Under [section 33(1)] no one may provide any network, service or associated facility that has been designated in this way, unless he has notified OFCOM in advance of his intention to do so.  If a network, service or associated facility already being provided is subsequently designated by OFCOM as requiring notification, the person concerned must notify OFCOM within the time period specified in the designation.  OFCOM must also be informed when a person intends to modify or to cease to provide a designated network, service or associated facility.”[3]

“[Section 33(5)] lists the information that OFCOM may require to be contained in a notification. This basically consists of the information necessary to enable OFCOM to identify the person giving the notification, such as his name and address, a declaration of his proposal to provide, modify or cease to provide the network or service described in the notification or to make available, modify or cease to make available an associated facility, and details of when he intends to commence these activities. OFCOM may also require details of a person who can accept service on behalf of that person and a person who can be contacted if there is an emergency.”[4]

General Conditions

Once notification is delivered as outlined above, a communications provider must comply with the general conditions for the provision of electronic communications.  Under the Act, “any person to whom OFCOM applies a condition under section 46 must comply with that condition. Section 45 gives OFCOM the power to set two categories of conditions - general conditions and specific conditions, the latter comprising universal service conditions, access-related conditions, privileged supplier conditions or significant market power (SMP) conditions. Subsection (10)(e) provides that the power to set conditions includes the power to revoke or modify conditions.”[5]





[2] Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, online:

[3] Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, the Communications Act 2003 Explanatory Notes, online:

[4] Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, the Communications Act 2003 Explanatory Notes, online:

[5] Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, the Communications Act 2003 Explanatory Notes, online:

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