Definitions and sources

Primary Statutory Sources

Telecoms (strictly speaking, electronic communications) Law is mostly harmonised in the European Union, so both UK Acts and Statutory Instruments and various EU Directives, Recommendations and Guidelines need to be looked at. The list below is not exhaustive.  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, but is linked to on other pages of this guide.  

Main UK Sources

Communications Act 2003 – this statute is the main source of UK telecommunications law, and largely implements the EU Common Regulatory Framework.

Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 - this is the main UK statute dealing with Wireless Telegraphy and spectrum issues.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 - this statute deals with (amongst other things) interception warrants and maintenance of interception capability.

Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2007 - these regulations deal with data retention by communications providers.

Electronic Commerce (EC Directions) Regulations 2002 – these regulations includes the mere conduit, hosting and caching liability exemptions.

The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 - these regulations particularise and specify the application of the general data protection rules (Data Protection Act 1998) to communications providers.

Computer Misuse Act 1990 - this Act specifies various hacking offences.

Main EU Sources – Common Regulatory Framework

The EU Common Regulatory Framework consists of the 2002 package as updated in 2009. Informal consolidated versions of the main directives (prepared by the Watcher’s helpers) can be found by following the links below: 

The 2002 package

Framework Directive (2002/21/EC) – on a common regulatory framework.

Access Directive (2002/19/EC) – on access and interconnection.

Authorisation Directive (2002/20/EC) – on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services.

Universal Service Directive (2002/22/EC) – on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services.

Privacy Directive (2002/58/EC) – on privacy and electronic communications.

Competition Directive (2002/77/EC) – which directs member states to remove special and exclusive rights in markets for electronic communications services.

Regulation (2000/2887/EC) – on unbundled access to the local loop.

2009 Update

Better Regulation Directive

Citizens’ Rights Directive

Regulation establishing the BEREC and the Office

Selected definitions

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 networkmeans—

(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;

signal” includes—

(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.