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UK Consults on New Electronic Communications Code to Boost Mobile

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 (9:18 am) - Score 736

The Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has officially launched a public consultation on their plans to update the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) in order to make it clearer and easier for communications infrastructure developers (mobile telecoms and fixed broadband providers etc.) to build new networks, particularly on private land.

The existing code, which was setup in 2003 to regulate the relationship between electronic communications network operators and site providers (e.g. landowners), has never been especially popular due to its complexity and conflict with other regulation.

On top of that the Government are keen to support the roll-out of faster broadband services and to boost mobile coverage, which requires that the ECC becomes more flexible with a view towards making it easier for infrastructure developers to construct new wireless masts and telegraph poles etc.

As such a reform of the ECC was initially included as part of the recent the Infrastructure Bill, which was needed to support the Government’s new agreement with mobile operators (here). The agreement included a key pledge to extend the geographic coverage of mobile networks (2G voice and text) from 80% today to 90% by 2017 (note: the target for 3G and 4G is 85%, up from 69% today).

But private landowners were deeply unhappy with this move (here), which threatened to impose new regulation that would weaken control of their own land. Put simply, landowners feared they wouldn’t be pain enough and at the same time they worried about having less control over what actually gets installed. In the end it was agreed to remove the ECC from the Infrastructure Bill (here), which meant the bill could proceed and the ECC would thus be dealt with separately.

As a result we now have the new Draft ECC Bill, which again proposes to give telecoms operators more power and flexibility to access and install critical communications infrastructure on private land, as well as making it easier to share infrastructure with other operators. Landowners would also get a new procedure for requesting the removal of such infrastructure from their property, which would be harder for operators to resist.

The new code would also seek to tackle cases where operators and landowners cannot reach an agreement on the installation of new infrastructure, which will make it possible for the courts to impose an agreement and for interim building to commence before the dispute has been formally resolved.

Sajid Javid MP, DCMS Secretary of State, said:

Access to electronic communications is increasingly seen as an essential service rather than a luxury. Digital services play a central role in our economy and society, enabling both citizens and businesses to thrive.

The growth in consumer demand for digital services relies on a sustainable and robust network of infrastructure – from fibre-optic cables and copper wire to wireless antennae and masts. In order for this infrastructure to be rolled-out, it needs a modern, clear, and relevant legal framework.

My aim is to reform the current Electronic Communications Code in ways that will promote network connectivity, expand coverage and take into account the legitimate interests of all parties. Beyond this, through enabling the rollout of infrastructure, Code reform will provide more consumers across the country with a range of high-quality digital services.

Code reform is vital. We need a Code that works for the 21st century and that supports the provision of electronic communications services well into the future. And I want to make sure that we hear the views of as many people as possible on what that Code should look like.”

The new consultation, which will remain open until 30th April 2015, appears to be an improvement on the somewhat rushed first attempt, although it remains to be seen whether or not these will be enough to appease all of the earlier concerns.

Ultimately both telecoms operators and landowners need to show some flexibility because without a proper legal framework the plans to improve mobile and broadband coverage could suffer, which would almost certainly hurt rural areas more than urban ones.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. DTMark says:

    I thought that O2 had certain obligations with respect to coverage. Perhaps that’s why for the first time ever, we see an H+ signal at our home. Upstairs. But to really cover this area I suspect that a new transmitter will be required. That is not going to be popular, as people will rightly point out that other operators have services available here which work very well.

    Which might then suggest mast sharing. In the meantime, driving around Basingstoke and Southampton, there are sites where there are so many street cabinets (power, cable head end, cable, BT, BT VDSL) all next to one another that it looks utterly ridiculous.

  2. Vimal charoliya says:

    I want to creat a Mobile network pole on my own land, How to i get it?

  3. Vimal charoliya says:

    I want to creat a Mobile network pole on my own land, How to i get it? plz Contact me at +91 96011 41445.

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