Each month Mobile profiles the industry’s new influencers based on the Power 50 criteria. This month’s is Matt Hancock MP, Minster for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, with changes by his department to the Electronic Communications Code underway; he’s the one the operators are watching.
His predecessor Ed Vaizey was heavily criticised for being too close to the mobile networks and giving BT far too much leeway. Over his time as an MP, Hancock has been passionate about the rights of small businesses. Whether he brings this approach to dealing with the telecoms giants will be central to his impact on the mobile market. He should perhaps take heed of the actions of Ofcom’s Sharon White, who has quickly established a strong reputation with a number of outspoken comments on mobile networks.
It’s arguable that this government role requires more innovation than any other in the industry. The minister in this position needs to manage Britain’s infrastructure needs against the influence of the networks and the demands of the general public. Finding a path in which all are appeased if not completely satisfied requires an incredible amount of ingenuity. That is not a quality typically associated with British politicians, and only time will tell whether Hancock breaks the mould.
The next year will be an absolutely critical period for Britain’s infrastructure. Ofcom is set to make significant decisions about the structure of BT and sale of mobile spectrum. The DCMS has taken a more withdrawn role in previous years when substantial change has occured. Ed Vaizey was also noticeably limp in deferring to Ofcom in relation to the Three/O2 and EE/BT deals. More courage is needed from a government to bolster Ofcom decisions, particularly when the threat of legal challenges from the big companies threatens their validity.
Unfortunately, Hancock’s predecessor Ed Vaizey was often in the headlines for the wrong reasons. He was either an anonymous figure or making news by upsetting someone in the mobile industry. Hancock’s task will be to attract media attention for the right reasons. Sharon White at Ofcom once again provides a good example. She has repeatedly made clear statements to the market that have gained media interest and got her point across with clarity.
The financial impetus from a governmental perspective is ensuring that as much value is extracted from the spectrum auction as possible, while also ensuring that the networks make good on their commitment to build out UK infrastructure. When it comes to finances and the government, it’s more about demonstrating efficiency and value than splashing the cash.
Ones to watch
Sales director, O2
The long-serving business director became sales director as Mark Evans stepped up to become O2 CEO, making Dowd a key player in whatever form the network’s IPO takes.
Commissioner for competition, EU
Vestager launched a stinging attack on Apple in the summer over the business’ tax practices in Ireland. With accusations that Vodafone is using a similar scheme in Luxemburg, will the Commissioner for competition take the same hard line approach?