The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) argues that the 2017 reforms to the Electronic Communications Code have mired the UK’s 5G rollout in legal battles
For many countries around the world, 5G is being positioned as a major factor in rejuvenating economies post-pandemic and the UK is no exception. But to generate the full economic benefits from the new technology, the rollout must be rapid and at scale, a process that is not only expensive but fraught with various complications.
One such complication is how to reimburse landlords when seeking to deploy mobile infrastructure on private property. In 2017, reforms under the Electronic Communications Code sought to reduce the rent mobile operators would have to pay to landlords in order to install mobile sites on their property, with the aim of greatly improving rollout speeds.
In effect, however, the reforms may have done the opposite, opening the door for increasingly drawn out disputes between the operators and landlords regarding the rent. Now, a report by the CEBR suggests that the delays to the UK’s 5G rollouts as a result of these disputes could cost the national economy around £7.4 billion
The UK government is currently consulting on changes to these regulations, with the CEBR suggesting that an alternative solution is needed to facilitate a rapid 5G rollout.
“The 2017 reforms have not guaranteed fast roll-out of telecoms infrastructure. Disputes between operators and landowners have instead led to protracted negotiations and legal disputes over access to land,” said Robert Beauchamp, chief economist at CEBR. “An alternative solution which restores market valuations would allow the market to function more smoothly, speed up roll-out, and better unlock the economic opportunities of improved digital connectivity.”
As always, there are two sides of the coin here. On the one hand, landlords and related organisations are arguing that they should be fairly compensated for the operators’ use of their property, with Anna Turley, Chair of Protect & Connect, saying that there is otherwise “no incentive for anyone to host a site”.
On the other hand, the telcos will argue that the regulations simply need to have the kinks ironed out if they are to work as the government intended. In this way, the UK will be able to benefit from 5G sooner rather than later, with customers not having the increased costs of deployment passed on to them from the operators.
Regardless of which side of the argument you fall, it is clear that delays serve no one and have major knock-on effects for the national economy.
How must regulations change to ensure the UK embraces 5G to the fullest? Find out what the experts think at this year’s live Connected Britain event
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