Government cuts cost of network infrastructure roll-out

Parts of the Electronic Communications Code have been updated to help communications providers deploy new infrastructure more quickly

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The rents that communications services providers (CSPs) must pay landowners to install key communications infrastructure – such as mobile phone masts – on private land are to fall to be more in line with those paid by gas and water companies, after a series of tweaks to the UK’s 33-year-old Electronics Communications Code.

The government wants to make it easier for CSPs to roll out broadband, 4G and future 5G mobile network infrastructure, and is targeting outdated legislation to cut costs in an attempt to clear the way for faster and more reliable comms services.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has also introduced measures to make it easier for mobile operators to upgrade and share their equipment with their rivals to improve coverage, and to make it easier for operators and landowners to resolve any legal disputes.

“We want everyone to benefit from the growth of digital services,” said digital minister Matt Hancock. “Removing these outdated restrictions will help promote investment in new technologies such as 5G, and give mobile operators more freedom to improve their networks in hard-to-reach places.”

The reforms to the code were set out in the Digital Economy Act earlier this year and have now been laid in parliament to come into force in December 2017. The government said they will help to “drive investment and stimulate the continued growth, roll-out and maintenance of communication technology infrastructure”.

Hamish MacLeod, director at industry association Mobile UK, commented: “The Electronic Communications Code is an important piece of the puzzle alongside further planning reform that will help mobile operators to overcome the challenges they face with expanding their networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

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“Good mobile connectivity is no longer an optional extra. It is essential infrastructure, as core to modern economic activity as broadband, electricity and other essential services.”

Mark Talbot, chair of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Telecoms Forum Board, added: “RICS recognises the critical role that a modern, efficient and equitable digital infrastructure has on the future development of the UK economy.

“With high-speed internet seen by many as the fourth utility service, the public and businesses expect access to digital services when they want and as they want, and RICS believes that the reformed code is a great step forward towards this ultimate goal.”

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