Ofcom will be leaderless in early 2015

UK communications regulator Ofcom has announced that Ed Richards, the group’s Chief Executive, will be standing down from his role at the end of 2014. The search for his successor is under way, and is targeted for completion in early 2015, which will result in a temporary period during which Ofcom will have no Chief Executive in place.

Richards joined the Ofcom board in 2003, and was made group Chief Operating Officer in July 2005 before being promoted to Chief Executive in October 2006. The announcement comes almost exactly 8 years into his tenure, and Richards cited the length of his stay as the primary motivator for the announcement.

“It has been a privilege to lead Ofcom during such an exciting and dynamic period in the evolution of the UK’s communications sector,” he said. “It is never easy leaving a job that you enjoy greatly but I have always felt that once I had completed eight years as Chief Executive this would be the right time to move on.”

“Ed has been an outstanding Chief Executive,” said Patricia Hodgson, Ofcom Chairman. “Under his leadership, Ofcom has helped to deliver superfast broadband, 4G, lower prices, innovation, competition, and sustainable public service broadcasting in the UK. He leaves an impressive legacy. On behalf of the Board I would like to thank him for his enormous contribution.”

Should there be any additional motivating factors for Richards’ resignation, Ofcom isn’t giving anything away. Speaking to this morning, an Ofcom representative confirmed that Richards will not be holding conversations regarding his future with any organisations until the end of his tenure in December, and will remain available to work at the behest of the Ofcom chairman for the remaining duration of his 12 month notice period. Should an opportunity arise for Richards to join an organisation currently regulated by Ofcom, then board level discussions and processes will be enforced to ensure no conflict of interests occur.

During a keynote presentation at the Telecoms Regulation Forum in London earlier this year, Richards outlined his view of the current state of the UK telecoms market. His talk covered a three year trajectory for Ofcom, plus the five key challenges he thought the industry faces today.

He outlined the digital divide, quality of service, competition and investment, switching and long-term ubiquitous superfast broadband availability as the focus areas for Ofcom in the coming 36 months, concluding: “All of these will be subject to considerable deliberation in the next five to 10 years”.

During his time at Ofcom, Richards has witnessed the deployment of 4G infrastructure in the UK, which currently covers 73% of premises in the country, and is expected to grow to 98% next year, according to Ofcom. He has also regulated the rise of super-fast fixed broadband access and coverage, with the UK leading super-fast take up in the EU5 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) at 9% of the population.

Industry analyst firm Ovum believes the replacement for Richards will be coming in during a turbulent time for both the UK and European market. “Whoever replaces Ed Richards has their work cut out over the next few years,” said Matthew Howett, Practice Leader for Ovum. “With the looming BBC license fee renewal, concerns around Premier League TV pricing, the ongoing debate about the appropriate regulation of fibre, and a new EU Commission to deal with, it’s going to be a turbulent induction process.”

As the telecommunications sector across Europe begins to usher in a new era with the arrival of the new European Commission this year and the end of Neelie Kroes’ tenure; Richards’ resignation presents both opportunities and challenges for Ofcom. Jill Ainscough only assumed the role of COO, from which Richards was elevated to Chief Executive in 2006, in July, and there are currently no real favourites being touted for the role.

One comment

  1. Avatar Train spotter 06/10/2014 @ 6:54 pm

    Granting Arqiva a disgracefull monopoly of our TV broadcast infrastructure was not exactly a decision that he should be proud of.
    Frankly it stinks

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