The UK business-to-business communications market needs a strong and focused voice to make its case to policymakers, regulators and the media, the Federation of Communication Services (FCS) , the all-industry trade association, announced today (10 March 2014).
Until today, though, the FCS said that like most of the industry it serves, it has concentrated on members’ vital day-to-day concerns like ensuring equivalence of access to the copper network, developing best practice to prevent radio interference, and building partnerships to get business-grade broadband on to industrial estates.
The FCS believes that while this has delivered real policy results and has delivered real commercial benefits for FCS member companies, at the same time, the voice of business-to-business comms has not really been heard or understood by policy-makers.
As a result of this, when it comes to the really big strategic issues the industry faces – fighting for radio spectrum for docks and utilities, or securing business-grade alternatives to the Openreach fibre roll-out - business is always on the back foot with the policy-makers.
“Policy-makers and regulators need to understand how important communications is to Britain’s businesses,” said FCS chief executive Chris Pateman (pictured below).
“At the moment, they think ‘comms’ just means voters getting e-mail on their mobiles, streaming video on to their TVs or writing them letters about on-line child pornography. This blindness extends even to Ofcom, whose terms of reference are dictated by EU-wide policies to protect ‘citizens and consumers’.
“Politicians all say how they want growth in the UK economy," continued Pateman, "and how committed they are to the technology-driven service-led economy of the future. But they fail to grasp the vital link between world-class UK businesses and the world markets in which they are to trade.
“That link is communications. No comms, no growth. We are not just one industry among many, clamouring for policy-makers’ attention. We are the one vital enabling industry without which nothing else happens.
“FCS members are already very well aware of what this means in practice,” said Pateman. “We have to live every day with the results of well-intentioned consumer legislation being applied to commercial relationships and business lines. Or spectrum allocations which take no account of the crucial enabling role portable radios play in enabling ports, sports events, energy companies and building sites to function.
“The FCS Board don’t think there’s any point moaning about how unfair all this is. If politicians only hear one side of the story, you can’t blame them for getting a distorted picture. It’s up to the industry to redress the balance,” Pateman argued.
The FCS admits that’s easy to say, but costly and risky for any individual company to do. It notes that politicians are always suspicious of ‘special pleading’, and it’s difficult for any business which isn’t the size of BT, Sky or Everything Everywhere to get much traction outside its home constituency.
On the other hand, trade associations represent multiple stakeholders, are politically neutral, and can often say the unwelcome truths or tackle the monopoly interests in a way that individual companies might feel it commercially unwise to attempt.
That is the rationale behind the FCS Board’s decision to re-launch FCS today. Setting out its stall, the organisation noted that:
- FCS is already the industry’s longest-established and most widely representative trade organisation.
- FCS represents suppliers and resellers of voice and data solutions over business radio, business telecoms, business mobile and business broadband.
- FCS has no special interest in arguing one technology over another.
- FCS has been dealing with Ofcom and its predecessors for over 30 years – and enjoys an enviable track record in achieving solutions which recognise the needs of the business to business providers.
- FCS has the very broadest pool of experienced and seasoned industry professionals to call upon in understanding and interpreting the dynamics of our developing and converging marketplace.
- FCS is the guardian of recognised industry codes of best practice for CDR records, radio mast site engineering and in-vehicle radio installation.
- FCS already enjoys strong partnerships with fellow industry organisations like INCA, TUFF, MESF and Action 4 - ensuring reliable, well-informed and responsive inputs even on specialist or minority interest issues.
“This is not a change of focus for FCS,” said Pateman. “We are and always will be committed to representing our members at the practical, technical, engineering level. That vital, detailed work will continue.
“This re-launch is about taking all that detailed experience and using it to inform bigger-picture positions about free markets, competition and societal value that policy-makers will recognise. This is about giving the business to business communications sector the voice it needs.
“FCS is committed to providing a focus for the business to business communications industry to take pride in its crucial role in the UK economy, and to take control of its own destiny. Because if we don’t, we can’t expect anybody else to do it for us,” concluded Pateman.