EU Referendum: Mobile industry divided as vote looms

EU Referendum: Mobile industry divided as vote looms

Senior mobile figures have expressed a number of concerns ahead of the upcoming EU Referendum, which growing uncertainty about what the market impact will be.

Major industry names such as BT, Vodafone and Dixons Carphone have publicly come forward in support of staying within the EU. However according to unified comms dealer Excalibur a vote in favour of Brexit will ease infrastructure pressures at a local level.

Speaking to Mobile, MD James Phipps said: ‘For Excalibur, if we remain in the EU and current immigration levels continue to rise it will bring huge pressures on our infrastructure at a local and national level and that will possibly stifle employment, having a direct impact on the services we offer.’

'Worth the risk'

According to the Federation of Communications Services, Brexit is 'worth the risk'. CEO Chris Pateman told Mobile: 'Overall, Brexit’s a risk worth taking,' he said, 'rather than address the need to liberalise the market, the EU will continue with its policy of prescribing top-down remedies and controls, and claiming them centrally as victories for the Digital Single Market.  
'I foresee no desire by the EU to address the MNOs’ complex monopoly.  We already have one of the most mature and dynamic mobile markets in the world.  And we have a government which got its fingers burned on the broadband roll-out, and is suspicious of anything which smacks of monopoly.  Therefore, we have a better chance of driving the mind of systemic market changes that can open up the market if the UK goes it alone.'


Investment fears

However a number of industry players have revealed concerns over Britain exiting the European bloc, stating foreign investment as a key reason behind their votes to remain. For The One Point free movement is a key aspect of the EU and one that MD Martin Lauer believes will be critical to ensuring continued innovation in new technology and services. He said: ‘With a growing reliance on digital services I believe that it is critical that the free movement of labour continue to serve this need.’

According to Chess Partner Services, exiting the EU brings with it a level of uncertainty that MD John Pett believes will have a negative impact on the mobile market. ‘My personal view is to remain in’, he said to Mobile, ‘both from the perspective of business and for the good of the UK in general. The economic uncertainty as a result of leaving the EU could have a very adverse effect on businesses across the UK.’
MVNOs to suffer?
For Phone Co-op CEO Vivian Woodell, this uncertainty will cross over into the MVNO space. He told Mobile that wholesale players will be put under increased pressure, claiming that a Brexit will create an unfavourable environment for players to survive.

'If Britain votes to leave the EU, it will create uncertainty for an extended period for the entire telecoms industry,' he said, 'including for MVNOs. We share a common regulatory framework across the European Union and this would be thrown into question. We would in all likelihood see a sharp increase in roaming costs as the EU pricing regime would no longer apply. The telecoms industry supply chain is quite integrated across Europe and this raises the prospect of tariffs which would adversely affect trade and drive up costs for consumers. More broadly, most economists predict a sharp economic slowdown if the UK leaves the EU. This would be an unfavourable environment which would place further strain on MVNOs.

Economic change

The economic climate resulting from a Brexit is one that has concerned Annodata CEO Rod Tonna-Barthet, who told Mobile last year that an exit could dramatically change investments.

‘My biggest concern is the impact of the macro economy,’ he said at the time. ‘We’re seeing signs that organisations are being much more circumspect about capital investments. If you’re dealing with international companies, then the global impact has wider implications, such as if Britain exits the EU. Our strategic investment decisions may end abruptly and we could see greater prudence in investment decisions.’

Tonna-Bathet’s comments were echoed by Maintel CEO Eddie Buxton, who slammed both sides of the EU debate for complicating matters. He told Mobile: ‘ The EU referendum does not offer a clear choice despite the two simple alternatives on offer. As a result, both sides of the debate try to fill the uncertainty with their own spin and speculation. However, what commentators on both sides of the debate agree is that a vote for the UK to leave the EU will create instability’






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