HomeInsightsCommunications & Competition newsletter – June 2022

Welcome to the third edition of our Communications & Competition newsletter – a place where we collate the most interesting developments for the communications sector.

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Provisional agreement reached on new “NIS2 ” to strenghen EU-wide cybersecurity and resilience

On 13 May 2022 the EU Council and the EU Parliament reached provisional agreement on new measures to ensure a high common level of cybersecurity across the EU. “NIS2” aims to further improve the resilience and incident response capacities of both the public and private sector and the EU as a whole. Key changes proposed include i) setting the baseline for cybersecurity risk management measures and reporting obligations across all sectors covered by NIS2 (including digital infrastructure); ii) removing divergences in cybersecurity requirements and on the implementation of cybersecurity measures in different EU member states (e.g., by introducing minimum rules for a regulatory framework, setting out mechanisms for more effective regulatory cooperation among member states, updating the list of sectors and activities subject to cybersecurity obligations and providing better enforcement remedies and sanctions). NIS2 will also formally establish the European Cyber Crises Liaison Organisation Network, EU- CyCLONe (to support the coordinated management of large-scale cybersecurity incidents) and widen the scope of rules in this area. In particular, the NIS2 agreement will apply more widely by introducing a new “size-cap rule” (meaning all medium-sized and large entities operating within the sectors or providing services covered by the directive will be in scope), adding measures to ensure proportionality, more risk management and extending the scope to cover public administration entities at central and regional level (which are often targets of cyberattacks). EU Member States will also be able to decide NIS2 should apply to public administration entities at local level too. NIS2 still needs to be approved by the EU Council and EU approval and once adopted, will replace the current NIS Directive on security of network and information systems. For more detail, please see here.

EU Commission adopts new Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Regulation (VBER) and Guidelines on Vertical Restraints

On 10 May 2022 the EU adopted revised VBER and Vertical Guidelines which entered into force on 1 June 2022. The new rules will help them to assess the compatibility of their supply and distribution agreements with EU competition rules in a business environment reshaped by the growth of e-commerce and online sales. A review of your vertical agreements is recommended to ensure compliance as a number of changes have been made to update the EU’s approach in this area. In particular, the scope of the safe harbour has been narrowed for dual distribution (i.e., where a supplier sells its goods or services through independent distributors and also directly to end customers) and parity obligations (which require a seller to offer the same or better conditions to its counter-party as those offered on third-party sales channels (e.g., such as other platforms), and/or on the seller’s direct sales channels (e.g., its website). This means that certain aspects of both areas will no longer be exempted and instead need to be assessed individually under Article 101 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. In contrast, the scope of the safe harbour for other areas has been enlarged, to additionally exempt (provided all other conditions for exemption are met) certain restrictions of a buyer’s ability to actively approach individual customers (i.e. active sales) and certain practices relating to online sales (namely, the ability to charge the same distributor different wholesale prices for products to be sold online and offline and the ability to impose different criteria for online and offline sales in selective distribution systems). The EU’s updated VBER rules are also designed to be clearer and simpler to make them more accessible to those using them on a daily basis. Specific VBER updates have also been included to help with assessing inter alia online restrictions, vertical agreements in the platform economy and agreements that pursue sustainability objectives. The guidance has also been updated to assist business with various areas, including selective and exclusive distribution and agency agreements. To find out more, please see here.

EU Report on the Security of Open RAN

On 11 May 2022, as part of their work on Cybersecurity of 5G networks, the EU published a report on the security implications of Open Radio Access Networks (“Open RAN”). In the report, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, commented: “Our common priority and responsibility is to ensure the timely deployment of 5G networks in Europe, while ensuring they are secure. Open RAN architectures create new opportunities in the marketplace, but this report shows they also raise important security challenges, especially in the short term. It will be important for all participants to dedicate sufficient time and attention to mitigate such challenges, so that the promises of Open RAN can be realised.” Overall, the EU’s report recommends a cautious approach to moving to this new architecture as the Open RAN concept is still maturing, with cybersecurity remaining a significant challenge. To mitigate such risks and benefit from the opportunity the EU’s report recommends various actions based on the EU’s 5G Toolbox such as using regulatory powers to scrutinise large-scale Open RAN deployment plans from mobile operators (and if needed, restricting, prohibiting and/or imposing specific requirements or conditions for the supply, large-scale deployment and operation of Open RAN network equipment); reinforcing key technical controls such as authentication and authorisation, and adapting the monitoring design; assessing the risk profile of Open RAN providers, external service providers related to Open RAN, cloud service/infrastructure providers and system integrators, and extending the controls and restrictions on MSPs (Managed Service Providers) to those providers; addressing deficiencies in the development of technical specifications and including Open RAN components into the future 5G cybersecurity certification scheme (which is currently at an early stage of development). To find out more about the EU’s findings on this, please see here.

EU Roaming – BEREC consults on new draft Wholesale Roaming Guidelines

BEREC is consulting on new Wholesale Roaming Guidelines to replace their 2017 Guidelines on the wholesale roaming access obligations for mobile network operators (“MNOs”) and the rights of those seeking wholesale roaming access under EU Roaming rules, which provide that MNOs must meet all reasonable requests for wholesale roaming access, including direct wholesale roaming access and wholesale roaming resale access, and can only refuse requests based on objective criteria. Changes to the Guidelines are necessary because of the new EU Roaming Regulation (2022/612/EU), which requires BEREC to publish Guidelines by 5 October 2022. BEREC will only provide guidance (rather than an official legal interpretation of the regulation), however, national regulatory authorities (NRAs) will be required to take the guidance into account when resolving disputes or taking enforcement action under the EU rules. NRAs will also, where they make a decision that falls outside the Guidelines, be expected to give objective reasons for such a decision. BEREC also mentions that the new Guidelines are complementary to its Retail Roaming Guidelines. The consultation closes on 24 June 2022. To access the proposed Guidelines and for details on how to respond to the consultation, click here.

Queen’s speech – impact on the communications sector

On 10 May 2022, the UK Queen’s Speech 2022 outlined the following Bills that could have implications for the communications sector:

  • Draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill: this year’s speech includes a Draft Bill which follows the Government’s 6 May 2022 response to the BEIS and DCMS consultation on establishing a new pro-competition regime for digital markets (see below). However, there is only an intention from the Government to legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows. In the meantime, the CMA will work with the Government and Parliament on the draft measures to put the current Digital Markets Unit (DMU) on a statutory footing and introduce the new pro-competition regime for digital markets, with the aim of preventing tech firms from abusing their dominant position at the expense of consumers and other businesses. In particular, the DMU will designate firms that have substantial and entrenched market power in at least one digital activity, which provides the firm with a strategic position. It will set tailored conduct requirements for each designated activity with the aim of preventing firms from taking advantage of their market powers, with the aim of ensuring fair trading, open choices and trust and transparency. From a consumer rules perspective, the Bill focuses on protecting consumers from scams and rip-offs and strengthening consumers’ rights.
  • Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill: work will continue with this bill from the last Parliament session, with the aim of improving cyber resilience and digital connectivity for individuals and businesses; ensuring that smart consumer products are more secure against cyber-attacks; and accelerating and improving the roll out of mobile and broadband networks. In particular, the bill will reform the Electronic Communications Code to support faster, fairer and more collaborative negotiations for the use of private and public land to enable deployment of telecommunications networks. The Government is looking to provide faster and more reliable connectivity to both the public and businesses and wants 95% of the UK’s geographic landmass to have 4G coverage by 2025, and for the majority of the population to have 5G coverage by 2027.
  • Online Safety Bill: work will continue from the last Parliament session on this bill, with the aim of making the UK “…the safest place in the world to be online” – it will introduce, among other things, provisions to ensure communication offences reflect the modern world, with updated laws such as one to tackle the making of threatening communication online.
  • Data Reform Bill: this will reform the UK’s data protection regime in order to, in the Government’s words, “create a world class data rights regime that will allow us to create a new pro-growth and trusted UK data protection framework that reduces burdens on businesses, boosts the economy, helps scientists to innovate and improves the lives of people in the UK”; and
  • Media Bill: this is to reform public service broadcasting laws and enable a change of ownership of Channel 4; it will also give Ofcom powers to enforce a Video on Demand Code for streaming platforms; and repeal s 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which, if it were commenced, would mean new publishers would have to pay the costs of any court judgment if they were not a member of the approved regulator, regardless of the outcome of the judgment; the Government describes s 40 as “[…] a threat to the freedom and sustainability of the press.”

To read the Queen’s Speech 2022 as delivered in full, click here. To access the Government’s briefing notes, click here.

Ofcom Consultation on new enforcement guidelines

Ofcom published a Consultation on 24 May 2022 on its approach to enforcement as it plans to revise its Regulatory Enforcement Guidelines. Specific changes being consulted on include new enforcement powers (to reflect Ofcom’s new telecoms security and resilience, video sharing platform and Network and Information Systems Regulations 2018 (imposing requirements on operators of essential services for the digital infrastructure subsector) enforcement powers) and simplifying how Ofcom explains its different enforcement powers to clarify how Ofcom carry out investigations. Responses are due by 19 July 2022. For more detail on Ofcom’s proposals, please see here.

Ofcom Consultations on UK spectrum licences

On 20 May 2022, Ofcom published a consultation in response to Vodafone and Telefónica’s requests to update the technical conditions of their mobile licences to enable the deployment of newer technologies including 5G. The proposed variations relate to updating the technical conditions of licences held by Vodafone in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands and removing a restriction placed on Telefónica’s unpaired spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band. Subject to consultation responses, Ofcom has indicated that it is also minded to make similar changes available to the licences of other licensees operating in these bands, upon request. The consultation is open until 1 July 2022 and more information can be found here.

A second mobile spectrum Consultation was launched on 24 May 2022 by Ofcom proposing the alignment of licence terms in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band which aims to amend UK Broadband’s spectrum licences in these bands (which are currently subject to different terms than other licences in the same band) to reduce barriers to efficient spectrum trades (such as transaction costs and complexity).The deadline for responses is 5 July 2022 and more detail can be found here.

New Subsidy Control Act published

On 28 April, the Government’s new Subsidy Control Act received royal assent, introducing a new system of State aid for the UK. Under the new rules, the UK’s devolved administrations and local authorities will, for the first time, decide whether to issue subsidies by following UK-wide principles, with the aim of delivering good value for UK taxpayers while being awarded in a timely and effective way. This is a major change from the previous EU system, under which all subsidies (except those covered by a block exemption) had to undergo a lengthy notification and approval process with the European Commission (which had to happen in advance), delaying funds reaching businesses in practice. The aim of the new UK-wide principles is to allow public authorities to deliver subsidies where they are needed without facing excessive red tape, creating a level playing field for subsidies across the entire country. This is designed to support the Government’s levelling-up agenda and the rules are expected to come into force in Autumn 2022. For more detail, please see here and here.

Ofcom Consultation on updating and clarifying customers’ right to exit contracts for broadband services

On 11 May 2022 Ofcom published a Consultation relating to their voluntary codes of practice on broadband speeds for residential and business customers, which give customers the right to exit their broadband contract and bundled services, without penalty, if their download speed falls below a minimum guaranteed speed. Ofcom is inviting comments on their proposed update to these codes, such that the right to exit applies to broadband and other bundled services are in line with Ofcom’s revised General Conditions of Entitlement to be implemented from 17 June 2022. Ofcom’s deadline for responses is 22 June 2022. To find out more see here.

Ofcom publishes report on service standards across telecoms industry covering 2021

The sixth Ofcom annual report on how customer service levels compare across the telecoms industry (in mobile, home broadband and landline), covering 2021, was published on 18 May 2022. Overall, Ofcom has found that customer satisfaction levels remain high, but call-waiting times and complaints handling are areas of particular concern. Customers are experiencing “hit-and-miss” levels of customer service from major telecoms providers and Ofcom is therefore calling on providers to “prioritise customer service improvements and deliver what customers expect and deserve”. To read Ofcom’s news release in full and for a link to the report, click here.

New Russian Sanction Online Restriction requirements for ISPs

On 27 April 2022, The Russia (Sanctions)(EU Exit)(Amendment)(No.9) Regulations 2022 (No.477) was introduced under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (‘the Sanctions Act’) to make amendments to the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/855) (‘the 2019 Regulations’). These amendments introduced new trade sanctions measures relating to internet services and online media services which came into force on 29 April 2022. They have been introduced without consultation and provide for restrictions in the form of trade in services sanctions. They apply to social media and internet access services as well as application stores. On specific measures, social media services (including video sharing platforms) are obliged to take reasonable steps to prevent content that is generated directly on the service, or uploaded to or shared on the service, by a designated person being encountered by a user of the service in the UK. Internet access services (including fixed and wireless broadband) providers must take reasonable steps to prevent users of the service in the UK from accessing websites provided by a designated person – which will likely take the form of URL blocking. Application stores (including those on smartphones) must take reasonable steps to prevent users of the application store in the UK from downloading or otherwise accessing an application provided by a designated person. Ofcom has been given power to impose civil monetary penalties on a person who fails to comply with the new trade sanctions – plus failing to comply with the new sanctions is also a criminal offence. For more detail, please see here.

New premium rate powers planned for Ofcom

Ofcom and the Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) have announced that, subject to further DCMS approval, Ofcom is likely to be taking over regulation of phone-paid services from the PSA. The regulators says that the move follows long-term market trends and the current low levels of consumer harm in this area. The PSA joining Ofcom is also said to provide an opportunity for both organisations to address future challenges as the market develops. The move will involve current PSA colleagues transferring to Ofcom. The Secretary of State for DCMS, Nadine Dorries, has given provisional approval for the PSA and Ofcom to be brought together. This will include a statutory process and related consultation later in 2022 and will be subject to final approval by the DCMS Secretary of State. It is anticipated that Ofcom will assume responsibility for regulation in the second half of 2023. To read Ofcom’s press release in full, click here.

Government launches Call for Views on the security of UK data centres and cloud services

A Call for Views on data storage and processing infrastructure security and resilience has been launched to assist the Government in strengthening the security and resilience of the UK’s data infrastructure to protect against outages and national security threats. Views are being sought on tools currently used in other regulated sectors, such as having an incident management plan in place, notifying a regulator when an incident impacts services, and a requirement for a person, board, or committee to be held accountable for security and resilience. The UK’s data storage and processing infrastructure includes physical buildings housing large computer systems, which store and process huge volumes of data, as well as cloud platforms which provide remote, shareable computing services via the internet. New protections would build on existing safeguards for data infrastructure, including the Networks and Information Systems (NIS) Regulations 2018 which cover cloud computing services. The Government says that its plans will give greater confidence to the millions of people who rely on these digital services every day. The proposals will also help small businesses who use cloud platforms as a cheaper, more efficient way to access essential IT services. As the UK’s reliance on digital services grows, shielding this infrastructure against disruption will protect the economy, the Government says. Views are sought from data centre operators, cloud platform providers, data centre customers, security and equipment suppliers and cyber security experts to understand the risks data storage and processing services face. The Government wants to know what steps are already being taking to address security and resilience vulnerabilities. The Call for Views also asks organisations that run, purchase or rent any element of a data centre to provide details of the types of customers they serve. Based on the evidence, the Government will decide whether any additional government support or management is needed to minimise the risks that data storage and processing infrastructure face. The Call for Views closes on 24 July 2022. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here. To access the Call for Views, click here.

Ofcom publishes Statement on its decision on new Wireless Telegraphy (Mobile Repeater) (Exemption) Regulations 2022 to help people boost mobile signal indoors

Ofcom has published a Statement confirming that it has decided to proceed with making new Regulations, which will revoke and replace the licence exemption Regulations for mobile phone repeaters (or “signal boosters”) made by Ofcom in 2018 (with some minor amendments). The new rules will extend the licence exemption criteria to cover devices that operate on the frequencies of more than one mobile operator (allowing for the use of “provider-specific” and “multi-operator” repeaters, provided that they meet certain technical requirements): and permit the licence-exempt use of static indoor mobile repeater devices which amplify signals other than those carried on 2G, 3G and 4G networks (including, for example, 5G signals). Ofcom’s objective is to enable people to buy a wider range of devices that can improve their mobile reception at home, to help consumers address indoor coverage problems. The Regulations were made on 26 May 2022 and will come into force on 16 June 2022. To read Ofcom’s Statement in full, click here.

Update from CMA on Google Sandbox Commitments

The CMA has published Google’s first report on its compliance with the binding commitments accepted by the CMA on 11 February 2022 (which covers the period from 11 February 2022 to 11 May 2022). The Commitments put in place a framework for Google to develop and test the Privacy Sandbox proposals. Google is required to report on the progress of the Privacy Sandbox proposals, updated timing expectations, its interactions with the CMA and third parties, including on the testing of proposals, as well as the approach taken to address concerns raised. The CMA has published Google’s quarterly report to keep third parties informed of Google’s progress. Both the CMA and the ICO are involved in this work, with the aim of protecting competition, privacy, and consumers. The CMA’s latest update also notes that the Monitoring Trustee has also received Google’s report and has not identified any reportable concerns to the CMA. To find out more, please see here.

New UK Vertical Agreements rules enter into force

New Competition law rules on vertical agreements entered into force on 1 June 2022. A number of important changes have been made following Brexit, as part of the UK’s aim of updating existing rules to take account of a number of changes in the UK market (such as the huge growth of online sales and services, increased price transparency and monitoring, access to a wider customer base, increased direct-to-customer sales and a rise in the number of online platforms acting as intermediaries and/or making direct sales) and taking account of specific UK market conditions and the interests of UK customers and UK businesses. As with the UK rules in place prior to 1 June under the EU Retained law, the new UK Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Order (VABEO) sets out various categories of vertical agreements which will be exempt from the UK competition law prohibition on agreements between firms that prevent, restrict, or distort competition. Its aim is to ensure that businesses are not prevented or disincentivised from entering into agreements that the CMA considers to be overall beneficial and not anticompetitive – and to provide businesses with more legal certainty as to which vertical agreements comply with competition law. Key changes under the new UK rules include:

  • A number of restrictions will no longer be considered hardcore restrictions of competition (meaning they will now be possible under the VABEO), such as dual pricing (where the same distributor is charged a higher price for products intended to be resold online than for products intended to be sold offline); and imposing criteria for online sales that are not overall equivalent to the criteria imposed on brick-and-mortar shops in a selective distribution system; and
  • A new hardcore restriction has been introduced for wide retail parity clauses (e.g., Most-Favoured Nation (or “MFN”) clauses) – meaning such clauses will no longer be block exempted, as a result of competition law concerns that such clauses can soften competition between horizontal competitors and reduce the incentives of intermediaries (such as online platforms) to compete on price, to innovate, or to enter markets and expand.

A review of your vertical contract agreements is recommended, particularly if you have digital distribution channels, to ensure compliance with both the new UK and EU vertical rules, particularly for pan-European businesses (see above). The CMA has also published draft guidance to accompany the VABEO, to explain when the benefit of the block exemption as well as an individual exemption can apply, with the final version to follow shortly. Please get in touch with us if you need help with this.

Upcoming final report on Mobile ecosystems

The CMA is carrying out a market study into mobile ecosystems in the UK. 14 June 2022 is the upcoming Statutory deadline for publication of the final report.

Renewed calls for big tech to pay for telecoms infrastructure investment

On 2 May 2022, the Executive Vice President of the European Commissioner for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, said that tech giants such as Google, Meta and Netflix may have to bear some of the cost of Europe’s telecoms network. These comments follow renewed calls from EU telecoms operators that they are bearing all of the costs of building new infrastructure that Silicon Valley tech giants use to make extraordinary profits. The Commissioner comments that “there are players who generate a lot of traffic that then enables their business but who have not been contributing actually to enable that traffic. They have not been contributing to enabling the investments in the rollout of connectivity. And we are in the process of getting a thorough understanding of how that could be enabled.” According to a study released by ETNO, a telecoms alliance, Meta, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix accounted for over 55% of all global telecom network traffic in 2021. An annual contribution of €20 billion (£17 billion) to network costs by these tech giants could give a €72 billion (£61.5 billion) boost to GDP in the EU. These comments come at a time of unprecedented investment by network owners into network infrastructure upgrades and roll-out efforts for costly new technologies such as 5G and FTTH, increasingly involving infrastructure-focused partners and specialist investors alongside traditional telecoms operators. While network upgrade and roll-out cost allocation principles are often determined in commercial arrangements between network owners and capacity takers, further efforts to regulate network infrastructure cost responsibilities would have a profound effect on who is incentivised to ensure infrastructure, capacity and OTT services can meet the needs of tomorrow. Regulatory intervention regarding network cost contributions from capacity takers could be a boon for infrastructure developments in markets across the globe.

Capacity outlook update

We’re seeing accelerated capacity roll-out across many routes to meet rising demand. Capacity is building on unprecedented recent growth. During 2016-2020 lit capacity has tripled on many routes and 5x on trans-Atlantic routes. $11b worth of cables was constructed between 2016-2020 across all major routes. Almost the same again is being built and coming online in the current period to 2023. New cable systems have more fibre pairs, higher core counts and are open access cable systems providing flexibility and interoperability with multi-provider network backhaul. Capacity is also increasing due to evolving technologies allowing higher density and increased paths within existing cables whilst avoiding interference or loss.

Capacity increases however are not keeping pace with lit capacity growth, which is currently being driven by tech giants and hyperscalers with an increasingly complex and data-heavy product mix including search, content, mapping, cloud and enterprise solutions. Further cloud service availability zones, datacentre and megacity infrastructure growth particularly in the Middle East, Africa and west Asia is fuelling demand for increased capacity and diverse pathways on trans Europe – Asia routes through the Gulf and into Africa. Hyperscalers and content providers are increasingly procuring wholly-owned fibre pairs and cable systems to meet their expanding needs. At the same time, their expanding direct involvement is also removing demand from the addressable wholesale market, pressuring traditional cable operators reliant on wholesale sales.

It is widely acknowledged however that this recent demand growth and capacity expansion will not continue forever. It is not yet clear what impact emerging technologies such as AI, VR and use of IoT ecosystems involving pervasive M2M communications will have on international capacity demand. Further direct connections by hyperscalers and content providers, together with widespread adoption of edge networking and computing with enhanced local caching, is expected to dampen international capacity demand and instead localise traffic patterns. Sources of future capacity growth will likely come from further internet enabled devices, increased internet penetration in developing markets such as Africa, improved broadband access and speeds in more developed markets and wider use and demand for data bandwidth intensive applications for both consumer and commercial. Also as mentioned above, there are also growing calls from infrastructure owners that they should be able to share capacity investment burdens with tech giants and hyperscalers who account for the bulk of traffic on their networks, which could have a positive effect on infrastructure capacity developments across the globe.

Liability limits needed to give greater certainty to UK space operators?

Virgin Orbit will launch the first satellite from the UK from Spaceport Cornwall in summer 2022. Prometheus 2, a cubesat built by In-Space Missions and designed with Airbus Defence and Space UK in a collaboration between the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and international partners, will be launched aboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne after being flown to altitude by a modified Boeing 747. The shoebox-sized cubesats will be used as a test platform for new imaging technologies. This mission coincides with the UK’s renewed ambition to build an attractive space economy and develop its own ability to monitor, protect and defend its interests in and through space by 2030.

Industry participants have long called for greater certainty regarding liability and insurance requirements imposed on spaceflight licensees to address risks to commercial launch from the UK and enable the UK to realise its ambitions.

Some, but not all, operator liability is capped under the Space Industry Act 2018 (SIA) and the accompanying Space Industry Regulations 2021 (SIR). The UK Government has so far baulked at amending the SIA and SIR to (1) set a maximum liability limit for either section 34 (damage to persons or property in the UK) or section 36 (claims brought against the UK government) liability or (2) require that section 36 liability must be limited in each licence. This is in part because this change cannot be made through regulations such as the SIR, but will require primary legislation to amend the SIA. UK Government has instead issued guidance on insurance requirements and liabilities under the SIA, stating unequivocally that all licences will limit the operator’s liability with respect to liabilities under both SIA sections 34 and 36 arising from the operator’s spaceflight activities.

By contrast, other jurisdictions legislate maximum operator liability limits, with the relevant government shouldering any further risk. The wording of the SIA and SIR, notwithstanding assurances from the UK Government, is also likely a factor contributing to high insurance premiums demanded from operators necessary to secure spaceflight licences.

  • Set an upper liability limit (rather than fixed liability) for section 34 and 36 liabilities, accompanied by an indemnity from the UK Government for any excess loss. This liability limit could be tiered to account for different risks presented by different spaceflight activities.
  • Alternatively, require that a licence must limit liability for section 36 liability, which could be determined by the regulator. This would align with the approach to section 34 liability and at least eliminate the risk of operators carrying unlimited liability towards the UK Government.

The UK Government has indicated that it will keep the SIA under review and may seek amendments if the opportunity arises.