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Scotland split could lead to higher mobile costs

Telcos warn independence could result in rising cost of mobile networks

Scotland

If Scotland votes yes on Thursday, customers in the country could be faced with increased communication costs, service provders have warned.

In an open letter, chief executives from BT, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, EE and Three, claimed costs would rise from splitting networks apart and implied that this would lead to prices increases post-split.

"We may need to modify our networks to reflect the reality of an independent Scotland," the letter said. "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."

However, the providers said they would commit to continuing to operate in Scotland and this would be "completely unaffected" by the outcome of the vote.

While it warned of price increases north of the border, the letter stopped short of cutting prices for the rest of the UK.

The CEOs said there were "a number of strategic and operational factors" that had to be determined fro their organisations. The letter stated that it would be necessary to know how a Scottish telecoms industry would be regulated and how the current EU telecoms framework would be applied, if at all.

The letter continued: "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?"

Ofcom currently regulates and licences spectrum in the UK and chiefs asked what approach an independent Scotland would take. The CEOs said it would be necessary to modify networks to reflect the new political reality and this could force costs upwards.

"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."

However, SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie said there was no need for mobile phone costs to rise. "A Yes vote will not change Scotland's topography or geography," he told STV.

"In fact independence is an opportunity for Scotland to address Westminster's dreadful record of developing mobile phone coverage in Scotland."

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