What's Next?

Added by Chris Pateman | Friday 24th June 2016

So we’re out, then.  

Well, let’s make a start at imagining telecoms life without the EU.  The UK has a massive advantage.  Ofcom, whatever its faults, is the best telecoms regulator not only in Europe but in the world.  

So let’s be ambitious.  Make Britain the first with equivalence of wholesale access on the mobile networks in the same way as for fixed-line voice and data.  The UK has 10 years’ experience to call on -- and a newly merged fixed-plus-mobile network operator which is well used to Ofcom’s scrutiny. 

We already have one of the most mature and dynamic voice and data markets in the world.  And we have a government (and especially a CMS Select Committee) which is willing to be suspicious of anything which smacks of monopoly.  Therefore, we have a better chance of driving the kind of systemic changes that can open up the market, now the UK can go it alone.  

What opportunities await us in a post-Brexit comms market will be governed by two things:  the speed with which the UK disentagles from the EU, and -- most crucially -- the boldness with which industry lifts its eyes from the status quo.

Nature abhors a vacuum.  And nowhere more so than in the world of 24-hour news.  So in the absence of any useful new information, it's no great surprise to hear those same pre-referendum sound-bites being recycled as post-referendum wisdom. The self-appointed spokespeople of the 'Tech Sector' (whatever that is supposed to mean) certainly seem happy to breathe new life into warnings of skills shortages, threats to the UK as a world digital hub and concerns about ongoing funding for start-ups underpinned by the European Investment Fund's investments in UK venture capital firms.  

Well, Paris, Frankfurt and Rome have always been open to tech-literate EU citizens, so we can presume they have chosen to come to the UK for reasons other than the weather or the food.  Would we want them to go?  And wasn't the whole point of an eventual points-based immigration system that it would allow 'Tech Sector' employers to attract the most talented individuals from anywhere in the world?  What's the down-side?  Are the innovative outputs of our tech-hub hothouses suitable only for sale within the EU markets?  And does the EIB invest in UK tech start-ups out a sense of reckless philanthropy?  Or is it, perhaps, because UK venture capitalists have an enviable track record of picking winners? 

Oh, let us focus not on the might-have-been, and seek out instead the possibilities which lie before us with shorter and accountable reporting lines.  Britain can be a world-leader like never before if we can only summon the vision and the courage to embrace the opportunity and shape our own future.