April French of Who’s Who Legal spoke to Robyn Durie, regulatory director at Everything Everywhere, the UK's only 4G mobile network operator, concerning the company’s recent activities, the challenges of adapting to changing regulations and the skills she looks for in external counsel.
Name: Robyn Durie
Company: Everything Everywhere
Position: Regulatory Director
Everything Everywhere, a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom which provides the Orange and T-Mobile brands, has made headline news in the UK in the last couple of months with the launch of 4G services on 30 October under the new brand name EE. The announcement follows a decision made by Ofcom in August granting Everything Everywhere permission to use its existing 1800 MHz spectrum to handle 4G. Meanwhile, its competitors must await the spectrum auction expected to take place in January 2013.
In recent years, the UK has fallen behind in the race to 4G. The spectrum auction, where operators will bid for licences for new frequencies, has been much delayed amid disagreements between operators. Following Ofcom’s decision, EE announced that it would be launching its 4G network in 16 cities throughout the UK by the end of this year and would also be teaming up with BT to offer a high-speed fibre broadband service to more than 11 million homes and businesses before the end of the year. In its decision, Ofcom announced that the benefits to consumers outweighed the risks of any short-term competitive advantage.
Robyn Durie, regulatory director at EE, has been actively working on the launch of the new brand. With a strong background in regulatory communications, Durie is well equipped to manage the operator’s competition and regulatory issues. Prior to this position, she was regulatory counsel at T-Mobile and before that she was a partner at Linklaters for 11 years heading up their communications practice.
Tell us about your role.
As regulatory director, I oversee all regulatory and competition issues. I have four teams reporting to me, concerned with spectrum (we are a mobile and a fixed operator), economic regulation, content and consumer issues and regulatory legal. A large part of my job relates to policy work – our aim is to influence policy rather than be reactive. Having said that, there is a considerable amount which we have to react to, particularly in the spectrum and economic regulation areas, including spectrum auctions and market reviews.
Describe a typical day.
There is no typical day. Lately, I have spent a lot of time working on the launch of our new brand – the preparation for the launch of 4G services. This has involved creating new terms and conditions, issues around roaming and emergency services, making sure everything works and we comply with all applicable regulation. We are also involved in court cases on wholesale mobile call termination, fixed unbundling charges and non-geographic numbers.
How large is the department?
In the regulatory function there is myself and four other lawyers. We have another seven non-lawyers, including three economists.
Tell us about any recent special projects you have been working on. Which law firms did you hire?
I’ve mentioned the 4G services launch. We used Clifford Chance to advise on the Ofcom consultation on liberalisation of our 1800 MHz spectrum. We are also involved in litigation with copyright owners on website blocking and we have used Bristows for that.
Our joint venture for the provision of mobile wallets and mobile advertising with Vodafone and Telefonica UK was recently cleared by the European Commission. Linklaters’ Brussels office advised us all. For litigation matters, we brief the bar directly.
My aim is to outsource as little of the work as possible. Our in-house team is closer to the issues, the business and the regulators.
My experience as a private practitioner helps me to better understand how external counsel operate. I can use my contacts and have a good feel for which external counsel are good in which particular areas, and so can pick “horses for courses”. For an in-house lawyer, it is important to get the lawyer you want working on a matter.
What skills and qualities do you require in external counsel?
The ability to work as part of a team with in-house lawyers and to complement rather than replace them. No reinventing the wheel, but the ability to bring their experience in other matters to our problems.
How do regulatory lawyers differ from corporate lawyers? Do you require any specific qualities in a regulatory lawyer?
Yes, there are always wider issues and so regulatory lawyers need to understand the policy context – both existing and proposed – and understand how business changes will affect this. A lawyer needs to understand the policy the legislation is seeking to achieve and the aims of the regulation – there is no point in knowing the black letter law if the regulator will rely on economic theory or consumer interest to come to its decision.
Have there been any recent regulatory changes that have affected your company? How has the company adapted?
There are constant regulatory changes – like the recent roaming regulation, which had to be implemented rapidly. Our constant challenge is finding areas where we are not price-controlled in which to try and make money to invest in our business. We also have challenges to ensure that the business diversifies to meet the competitive challenge from those which are not regulated in the same way. This means the company has to constantly investigate new areas, such as m-commerce and machine-to-machine communications.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role? How do you keep up to date with regulatory developments affecting your business activities?
The most challenging aspect is to get the business to focus on the long-term future as regulatory changes have long timescales, as compared to weekly retail returns. Being a proactive company with a vision, including providing brilliant customer service, has long-term benefits with both the government and the regulator.
I stay up to date by reading as much as I can. I rely on law firms for regular updates on competition law and legislation which is not affecting the business on a daily basis.