The telecoms regulatory framework in the UK
How the telecoms regulatory framework is affected by the UK leaving the EU.
The UK electronic communications regulatory framework
The UK electronic communications regulatory framework is mainly contained within:
● the Communications Act 2003
● the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006
The EU Common Regulatory Framework is implemented through the above legislation.
This domestic legislation governs the regulation of the telecoms markets, guarantees basic user rights, and sets out the powers and duties of Ofcom as the national regulator, including how radio spectrum in the UK is managed.
The EU Common Regulatory Framework has been under review and a new electronic communications directive – the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) - was adopted by the EU in December 2018 with EU countries applying the new directive to their national law by 21 December 2020.
The UK has used a statutory instrument to transpose the EECC (European Electronic Communications Code) Directive into UK law; the instrument has been made law and is available at legislation.gov.uk. The Directive was transposed ahead of the transposition deadline of 21st December 2020, a legal requirement under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Now that the UK has left the EU
Parts of the UK electronic communications regulatory framework is no longer appropriate without corrections, for example the requirement to notify matters to the European Commission.
The UK framework also includes references to the EU’s objective of promoting the Single Market, and cross-references to EU obligations and Commission Recommendations that Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, will no longer have to comply with.
To ensure that the telecoms regulatory framework remained operable, secondary legislation under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, was made in February 2019 to bring corrections into force when the UK left the EU.
The government implemented the EECC because the transposition deadline of 21 December 2020 was before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.
Impact on the telecoms industry
We don’t expect significant impacts on how businesses operate under the telecoms regulatory framework and how consumers of telecoms services are protected.
This is because EU-derived rules applicable to communication providers and governing the way Ofcom regulates telecoms markets are implemented in UK law, will be corrected by secondary legislation under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. The rules on spectrum allocation and assignment would similarly be corrected so that the way Ofcom carries out these functions would be essentially unchanged.
Ofcom has always been able to and will continue to tailor its regulatory approach to the needs of the UK telecoms market. This approach would continue to be founded on the regulatory principles implemented presently in UK law, which aim to encourage competitive markets and guarantee consumer rights.
UK telecom operators will continue to be able to provide cross-border telecoms services and operate within the EU, under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).