UK MNOs plead for govt backing ahead of Budget 


Mobile UK, the trade body representing the UK’s mobile operators, has released a statement today pleading with the government to make the country’s telecoms “investment environment” more positive in the upcoming Spring Budget 

Mobile UK’s report argues that the industry is facing many 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”.  

On the basis of these industry challenges, the report makes a direct plea to UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt MP to act quickly to “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.” 

 Mobile UK asks that the government: 

– Puts in place measures to help improve the investor outlook; 

– Redirects or remove annual licence fees; 

–  Ensures certainty in the tax system; 

– Increases resources in the planning to streamline and approve new mobile infrastructure; 

– and invests in digital skills. 

None of this is particularly new or groundbreaking, with Mobile UK having made overtures to the government on similar topics for many years. 

The report states that the body believes that enacting these principles will help to close the £25 billion investment gap (identified by think tank Digital Connectivity Forum), whose own report found that UK operators may struggle to reach their 2030 goals due to a lack of investment. 

‍“The mobile network operators believe these actions will help unlock the full potential of the UK’s mobile industry,” said Mobile UK CEO Hamish MacLeod. “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.” 

Back in November, then BT CEO Phillip Jansen issued a similar plea, calling on the government ahead of the Autumn statement to implement permanent tax breaks for infrastructure investment, in order to “give businesses like BT Group genuine long-term certainty to plan and shift the investment environment in Britain from good to great.”   

In a blog post, Jansen explained that the introduction of a tax Super Deduction in April 2021 – which reduced tax on new plan and machinery equipment by 25% – had allowed BT to increase its fibre rollout targets from 20 million homes to 25 million homes. This scheme was replaced last spring by a policy of Full Expensing, allowing companies a 100% tax relief on qualifying plant and machinery investments between April 2023 and April 2026. As this is set to end in just under two years, Jansen called for permanent tax breaks so that the UK telco industry can investment £20 billion to meet government fibre and 5G targets. 

The 2024 Spring Budget is set to be announced this week, on Wednesday 6th March. 

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