BSG report says UK telecoms needs regulatory certainty as investments in 5G and ultrafast accelerate
The UK government must ensure the telecoms industry has regulatory certainty and access to talent, markets and cross-border services like roaming following Brexit, according to a report by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG).
It argues the industry contributes more than £30.2 billion to the UK economy, and underpins a lot more, and therefore it is essential to minimise risk during negotiations to leave the EU – particularly at a time when billions will be spent on ultrafast broadband and 5G infrastructure.
Government must ensure telcos are able to hire the best foreign experts and researchers, the BSG said, and ensure research projects receive the same funding they would have done from EU initiatives.
It wants coordination with EU telecoms regulations, at least in the medium term, and for Ofcom to maintain its role in EU discussions – especially with regards to open Internet, cross border services and roaming.
Roaming across the EU is set to be abolished on 15 June but it is unclear whether Brits will benefit post-Brexit.
“For UK consumers to continue to benefit from ‘roam like at home’ in the EU and EEA after Brexit, UK operators must continue to have access to wholesale roaming rates at or below the EU regulated caps,” said the report. “Without access to these wholesale rates, domestic mobile operators will face significantly higher costs, which will lead to higher roaming charges for UK consumers.”
Above all, the BSG says a “cliff-edge” scenario where the UK might be left without a trade deal must be avoided. This could severely impact the likes of BT and Vodafone which have European operations and compete for worldwide contracts.
Following Brexit, the EU will not be a part of the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement, so a replacement mechanism must be developed, while UK privacy laws should be on a par with those in the EU, the BSG said. If these conditions are not met, then the transfer of data could become troublesome and impact the industry.
Last year, prior to the vote, research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) suggested the industry would be a less attractive place to invest, would damage revenues and harm consumers.
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