June 12, 2024

Blog: Digital Connectivity Needs to be at the Heart of the Election

Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive of Mobile UK, provides his view on the upcoming election and the need for digital connectivity to be at the foreforont on politicians' minds.

At this General Election, all the main parties have made economic growth a central theme, in explicit recognition that it is the only way to deliver better public services and for the UK to become a more secure and prosperous nation.

No plan for growth, though, can be credible unless it has a deliverable strategy for improving our digital infrastructure, including our mobile infrastructure – a core underpinning for the UK’s growth sectors. That is why Mobile UK is calling for a range of reforms to planning, radio spectrum fees, regulation, local authority funding and business rates to stimulate investment in mobile infrastructure. The operators’ investment has a proven track record in stimulating growth and innovation across the economy.

For example, the UK’s mobile operators have invested approximately £26 billion in 4G since 2012. Better mobile connectivity has driven investment and innovation in sectors such as gaming, music & entertainment, banking, ticketing, dating, healthcare and e-commerce. In the advertising sector alone operator investment has generated growth with a present value of at least £300 billion – a GDP multiplier to operator investment of over 10. What used to be referred to by the TV industry as the ‘4thscreen’ is now very much the 1st screen.

The National Institute of Economic Research (NIESR) is also pointing out that, in GDP terms that not all the benefits of mobile connectivity are being captured in the economic data[1].The increased usefulness and conveniences are being under-measured, and public policy should allow for this.

Looking forward, the GSMA is forecasting conservatively that every pound invested by the operators in 5G will deliver 5 pounds in GDP benefits, driving innovation across the economy, with more applications connecting ‘things’ as well as personal devices. Internet of Things is already the fastest growing part of the market and 5G will accelerate this.

However, the Digital Connectivity Forum has calculated that the UK’s mobile operators’ capacity for investment needs to be enhanced by around £25 billion if the UK is to make the most of the 5G opportunity and to remain a leading digital economy. Investment in mobile infrastructure comes almost exclusively from private capital and so significant changes in the operators’ investment environment are needed if this gap is to be closed.

Mobile UK is therefore calling for an incoming Government, focused on restoring growth, to have a ‘first 100 day plan’ which will boost investment in mobile connectivity, and include:

  • 1. Overhaul the planning system so that it is adequately resourced and able to deliver the rapid rollout of mobile networks to support economic growth.
  • 2. Reform the radio spectrum tax so that mobile operators can retain funds for investment in improved network capacity and coverage.
  • 3. Centrally fund local authority Digital Champions to make them more effective at digitising public services and promoting the rollout of digital infrastructure.
  • 4. Reform network traffic management regulations to boost service and tariff innovation.
  • 5. Offer business rates relief on new mobile infrastructure to encourage investment in its construction and increase digital inclusion.

In recent years, the mobile sector has been squeezed by falling revenues (which are one third below what they were 10 years ago), increasing data traffic (which has risen 20 times in the last 10 years), and pressures on costs (for example mobile networks are high users of electricity). We call on the Government to look to the UK’s best interests by ensuring the sector has the capacity to investfully in the mobile connectivity needed to spark growth across the UK’s economy.


About Building Mobile Britain

Building Mobile Britain logo

Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain

Media Contacts

Gareth Elliott
Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076

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