U.K. Can Lead 5G Revolution Post Brexit, CK Hutchison Says

  • Three owner CK Hutchison calls EU exit ‘wonderful opportunity’
  • European Commission blocked merger of O2, Hutchinson’s Three

Leaving the European Union will give Britain the chance to take the lead in rolling out fifth-generation wireless technology, the owner of mobile network Three U.K. told an industry conference Thursday.

“There’s a wonderful opportunity for the U.K. to break with some of the more sclerotic policies of the European Commission, setting a new path for Britain which is pro-growth, pro investment and pro-assuming leadership in technology,” CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. Finance Director Frank Sixt said at the Enders Analysis event.

The commission’s decision to block Hutchison’s plan to merge Three with Telefonica SA’s O2 last year was “not a victory for sensible industrial policy,” Sixt added. Hutchison, which also controls communications businesses in other European and Asian countries, is appealing the ruling, and expects a decision within the next 18 to 24 months.

The blocked deal cost Britain about 10 billion pounds ($11.7 billion) in preferred investment, and the impact on pricing has been negative for U.K. consumers, Sixt said.

The European Union launched its “5G for Europe Action Plan’’ last year, outlining measures it hopes will boost the trading block’s competitiveness in the global 5G market, which it estimates will be worth 225 billion euros ($236.5 billion) by 2025. However, Three has called on British regulators to change their own rules by, for example, capping purchases of wireless spectrum by larger operators, in order to help smaller companies compete.

5G technology is expected to deliver extremely fast speeds, supporting high demand in busy areas, with potential use in industries including financial trading and entertainment. According to a study released by O2 last month, 5G infrastructure could add 7 billion pounds annually to the U.K. economy by 2026. U.K. communications regulator Ofcom expects roll-out to begin next year.

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