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Budget 2024: Improving Mobile Connectivity – The Importance of a Positive Investment Environment

Mobile UK

3 min read Partner content

The UK’s mobile network operators and the wider industry are committed to improving and enhancing coverage and capacity across the UK to ensure we realise our national ambition to be a world leader in mobile connectivity. This is essential for the prosperity of our economy.

However, to make this happen, it cannot be overstated how important it is that we have a positive investment environment to support the industry.  

The mobile industry is facing several pressing challenges, including rising costs due to inflation, a decade of flat/ declining revenues, rising demand for data requiring massive investment in network capacity, and growing Government asks to deliver social goods, such as social tariffs, to ensure everyone is digitally included.  

As we look ahead to the Spring Budget set to be unveiled by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt MP on 6th March, we are calling on the UK Government to address these challenges and commit to actions that will ensure the UK mobile industry can thrive and be and be in a sustainable and healthy position to provide the UK with world-class connectivity.  

To help unlock investment and spur growth, Mobile UK is calling on the Government to address the following actions:  

  • Put in place measures to help improve the investor outlook.
  • Redirect or remove annual licence fees.
  • Ensure certainty in the tax system.
  • Increase resources in the planning to streamline and approve new mobile infrastructure.  
  • Invest in digital skills.  

The Chancellor must prioritise improving the investment outlook to help narrow the £25 billion investment gap identified by the Digital Connectivity Forum and to release the potential that will spur investment in both 5G and stand-alone 5G. As per the actions outlined above, the regulatory burden on the industry must be examined to improve investor sentiment, including ensuring a fair and certain tax system and a review of the annual licence fees paid by the industry to utilise the mobile spectrum. Additionally, net neutrality rules must be looked at to ensure that the industry is able to innovate and generate sustainable value from its investments and to encourage further investments to keep up with data demands.  

The Chancellor must also be mindful of the need to properly resource the planning system, which is the gateway to enabling the deployment of all infrastructure, including mobile. At present, this system faces a chronic under-resourcing and a skills shortage, which, if not addressed, could seriously impact not only the mobile industry but wider investment across the whole economy.  

To support mobile deployment and the coordination of mobile policy at a local level, we are calling for central funding of Digital Champions. A Digital Champion is a dedicated local authority whose role is to promote and build awareness about the benefits of mobile technologies locally. By providing central funding for Digital Champions, the Government can help ensure that all local authorities have the skills and resources they need to support the deployment of new mobile infrastructure and services and promote the benefits of mobile technologies to their communities.  

The Government needs to invest in digital skills to ensure that the UK workforce has the skills and knowledge required to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the mobile industry.  

Commenting ahead of the Spring Budget next month, Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive at Mobile UK, said:

‍“The mobile network operators believe these actions will help unlock the full potential of the UK’s mobile industry. We hope to work with the Government to break down barriers and create a positive investment environment that supports the deployment of mobile infrastructure to help sustain people’s ultra-connected lifestyles, along with the recruitment of digital champions within local authorities.  

“We look forward to the chancellor’s announcement with the hope of seeing the inclusion of focus on infrastructure and the acknowledgment of its central role in strengthening the economy.”  

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