Ofcom confirms telcos will no longer have to provide fax services


Farewell fax machine. Following its consultation last year, Ofcom is confirming that telecommunications providers will no longer have to provide fax services to their customers.

The communication device – formally known as a facsimile machine – was a regular feature in offices and, to a lesser extent, homes.

They worked by enabling users to send an exact copy (or facsimile) of a page of text or images to the recipient, using a telephone line to do so.

This is one of the reasons they have been used in big money transactions with tight deadlines, such as house sales or football transfers, as they enable contracts to be exchanged quickly and accurately.

But as digital technology and broadband services have developed, the fax machine has been replaced by email and document sharing software that offers the same or better functions.

What is changing?

Under the universal service obligation (USO), telephone services must be available to people across the UK at an affordable price – which until now has included fax services. Two designated telecommunications providers are responsible for universal service in the UK – BT and KCOM (in the Hull area only).

However, Ofcom is now amending its rules to remove the requirement for BT and KCOM to provide fax services under the Universal Service Obligation.

The current Universal Service Obligation was established in 2003, when fax machines were more common and email and instant messaging less common. So, at that time, it was important that the Universal Service Obligation required BT and KCOM to provide fax services.

Almost 20 years later and the telecommunications landscape has changed. Not only are alternatives to fax machines now more widely available, but the transition of telephone networks to internet protocol (IP) technology means that fax services can no longer be guaranteed to work the same way.

This change does not mean that fax services will stop working immediately, but current fax users should look for alternatives (such as email).

Chris Price
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