Will Brexit lead to a deviation from EU telecoms rules for UK?


BREXITTBrexit has hardly been out of the news since the referendum and although it will take time for the UK to negotiate terms for their exit from the EU, telecoms isn’t the only market wondering what this will mean for the future of their market.

In case you missed our “What’s your Post-Brexit Strategy?” webinar, hosted by Telecoms.com last week, I just thought I’d summarise the key points that came out of the online discussions.

Brexit and Telecoms

During the webinar we heard from Mike Conradi, a lawyer who leads on commercial and regulatory advice to businesses in the telecoms sector. Mike has a particular interest in regulatory matters, and gave an informative overview of the current state of the situation.

Depending on a variety of factors (such as if the UK remains in the single market or EEA) he believes there are two ways you can look at the future of the UK telco market following the Brexit vote.


It will result in a loss of UK influence over EU telecoms rules

  • The UK is the strongest force for a liberal approach, valuing the role of markets. Without the UK it’s likely that the Commission will adopt a much more interventionist line
  • If still obliged to follow EU telecoms regulations (as part of a deal to give the UK single market access) OFCOM will still have to enforce EU rules, and those rules are likely to be more onerous on the telecoms sector, restricting range and types of services available; eg:
    * very restrictive interpretation of net neutrality rules; or
    * placing new rules on Over The Top services (like WhatsApp)
  • Thus far from “taking back control” the UK will have lost power and influence


The UK will gain greater Independence

  • IF the UK is able to deviate from telecoms rules then it could set its own less interventionist, pro-market approach to telecoms regulations
  • The UK could (perhaps) also subsidise broadband with fewer restrictions because not bound by State Aid rules
  • UK may introduce greater foreign ownership restrictions than at present

He also elaborated on roaming charges, as many questions received during the Q&A part of the webinar were on this topic. The overarching message was obviously if the UK is not in the EEA then roaming regulations won’t apply and calls will get more expensive. Mike also mentioned that on top of this, some EU countries (e.g. France and Italy) allow French MNOs to charge greater mobile termination fees to non-EEA operators. Therefore it may also be more expensive to call mobiles in these countries.

Brexit and the “Alt-Nets”  

The second speaker we heard from was INCA’s Malcolm Corbett (CEO of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association) on his view on the effect Brexit may have on investment in alternative network providers.

His main concern was funding and state aid from the UK government and European Investment Bank (EIB) for his members, who are mostly the “alternative networks” (to incumbent BT) in the UK. This slide summarises his thoughts on the topic of funding. While he seems confident that Brexit will not affect private investment, other areas are less concrete.

funding brexit

Brexit at Broadband World Forum

Delivering a keynote session on the EC’s plans for a digital single market for Europe, this year will be Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, European Commission (20th October). He will hopefully be able to elaborate on the UK’s position in this going forward, depending on the position of negotiations come October.

Joining him in our conference speaker line-up are colleagues Anna Krzyzanowska, head of the broadband unit at DG CONNECT as well as Harald Gruber, head of digital economy and innovation at the European Investment Bank. They will both be presenting on the regulatory framework for broadband in Europe, and strategies to finance the future of fibre.

You can attend Andrus’ keynote session to hear more, as well as attend our Digital Regulation Forum meet-up at BBWF this October, for FREE. To find out more and register for your free visitor pass, please visit our main website here.


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