The impact of Brexit on the telecoms industry will be relatively light compared to that on some other industries such as the financial sector, says Clive Carter, director of strategy at Ofcom.
Speaking to Mobile at the Westminster eForum on the UK Telecoms Sector: Services, Competition and the Impact of Brexit, Carter said that though there are challenges to face, in the short term the UK was ‘in a good place’ in terms of investment, regulation and policy. But he said that ‘aspirations need to be greater’, and that issues such as broadband and mobile coverage, infrastructure investment, competition and customer protection need to be addressed.
‘The EU regulatory framework has been quite successful, and you would look to retain or replicate much of it. The question is, what is the right regulatory framework for UK business, competition and trade?’ he continued. ‘You can’t just leave it to the market to guarantee standards - you need to look to protection for consumers, particularly those for whom the market doesn’t work’ argued Carter, adding that ‘digital refuseniks’ who had not embraced technology - particularly older consumers - might be helped by government policies, such as providing online access as part of social care.
But Carter refused to speculate about possible long-term changes to Ofcom’s functions after the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ expected in 2019, which will bring all EU laws onto the UK books. ‘On Day One, nothing will change’ he told Mobile. ‘The question is what will happen on Day Two, and it’s too early to speculate about that. But it’s crucial that the UK retains its international presence and we will work tirelessly towards that.’
Other speakers at the eForum included Daniel Butler, head of public affairs and policy at Virgin Media; Samira Gazzanne, policy manager of the Broadband Stakeholder Group; Julian Ashworth, global director of group industry policy at BT Group; and Alex Blowers, head of regulatory affairs, CityFibre.