The U.K.'s Office of Communications is investigating the market positions of Amazon.com, Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google in the coming weeks as part of a study into the country's cloud-infrastructure-services sector.
The regulator said that the three firms account for a large majority of the revenue generated in the U.K.'s public cloud-infrastructure market. Ofcom said it would examine the strength of competition in cloud services generally and the position the three companies hold in the market, as well as consider any features that might limit innovation, growth or new players.
Microsoft has announced that it will be contributing to a new study on artificial intelligence. Google has not yet responded to requests for comment on the matter.
This is the latest move by the U.K.'s regulators and policy makers to try to establish the country as a leading global tech regulator. The EU has been trying to position itself as the main tech regulator in the West for the past decade, but more recently, state governments in the US and federal regulators have been taking action to investigate and sue big tech companies for allegedly abusing their competition and privacy rights.
The U.K.'s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has created a new digital-markets unit. The CMA is hoping to be granted new powers to order changes to tech giants' business practices. The CMA earlier this year launched competition investigations into Apple Inc. and Google's power over mobile-device software. Both companies said at the time that their practices promoted competition, and that they would work with the regulator.
According to Ofcom, telecommunications providers and broadcasters are increasingly relying on cloud infrastructure. The regulator said it would look into whether this shift could lead to less competition or higher prices for consumers.
The regulator said it would seek feedback from those affected by its cloud probe and issue a final report—including any concerns or recommendations—within a year. It said it would consider how any competition concerns could be addressed, but said a full examination of how to do so could require additional work. Among Ofcom’s powers are competition enforcement actions as well as a referral to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Ofcom has announced that it will begin a broader assessment of online personal communication and audiovisual apps. This assessment will look at how services like WhatsApp and FaceTime, as well as Zoom Video Communications, have affected traditional calling and messaging. Additionally, Ofcom is interested in exploring how competition and innovation might evolve in this space. Finally, the assessment will also focus on the nature and intensity of competition among digital personal assistants and audiovisual "gateways," such as connected television and smart speakers.
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