Independent Scotland could cause hike in phone costs

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Leading UK telecoms firm pen open letter warning of cost to industry if Scotland vote “Yes”

Some of the UK’s leading telecoms companies have warned that an independent Scotland could lead to “increased costs” across the industry.

Mobile operators EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three are signatories on a letter published on BT’s website promising that they will strive to deliver the best service possible for all customers, no matter what happens on Thursday independence referendum.

However, the firms warned that a “Yes” vote could raise a number of “strategic and operational” issues which the companies, that also include BT and TalkTalk, would need to address.

The telecom companies also questioned how the industry would be regulated if the Scottish people choose to end the union on Thursday.

The letter was published at the weekend and was also sent to several Scottish press outlets.  It was signed off by EE CEO Olaf Swantee, Telefonica UK CEO Ronan Dunne, Vodafone UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp, Three UK CEO Dave Dyson, Talk Talk Group CEO Dido Harding and BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson.

The letter says: “Would there be continuity with the current European Union regulatory framework so that we would continue to operate across the border with common infrastructure under a single set of rules? What approach would the government of an independent Scotland take to the radio spectrum – currently licensed on a UK-wide basis – without which mobile networks cannot operate?

“We may also need to modify our networks to reflect the reality of an independent Scotland; and we may need to consider whether to modify the services offered in Scotland, given its relatively demanding topography and relatively low population density. Any of these factors could lead to increased industry costs.”

The vote, which will see the people of Scotland decide whether they want to stay part of the United Kingdom, will take place on Thursday September 18.

Letter in full:

As individual companies and as an industry, we are committed to providing and investing in high-quality, affordable services to all of our customers in the UK. We are clear that this commitment will be completely unaffected by the outcome of the referendum on Scottish independence, which is entirely a decision for the Scottish people. Whatever the result, we remain fully committed to our customers, employees and operations in Scotland.

Should the majority of the people of Scotland vote for independence, there are a number of strategic and operational factors which would need to be resolved for our businesses.

Specifically, we would need to know how a Scottish telecoms industry would be regulated. Would there be continuity with the current European Union regulatory framework so that we would continue to operate across the border with common infrastructure under a single set of rules? What approach would the government of an independent Scotland take to the radio spectrum – currently licensed on a UK-wide basis – without which mobile networks cannot operate?

We may also need to modify our networks to reflect the reality of an independent Scotland; and we may need to consider whether to modify the services offered in Scotland, given its relatively demanding topography and relatively low population density. Any of these factors could lead to increased industry costs.

Finally, we reiterate that, whatever the outcome, we pledge we will continue to work hard to deliver the best possible services for all our customers and remain committed to our employees and operations in Scotland.

Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive Officer, BT Group

Dido Harding, Chief Executive Officer, TalkTalk Group

Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive Officer, Telefonica UK (O2)

Jeroen Hoencamp, Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone UK

Olaf Swantee, Chief Executive Officer, EE

David Dyson, Chief Executive Officer, Three UK

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