UK government has another look at laws governing access to telecoms infrastructure

telecoms radio mast

Now that we’re free of EU regulation it’s time to make the Electronic Communications Code fit for purpose.

Credit where it’s due to the UK government for getting on with this less than a month after it shook off Europe’s regulatory shackles. As is so often the case, the first step to updating a law is a consultation, which was launched today. It mainly concerns the rules that govern the relationship between landowners and telcos that have infrastructure on that land, with both sides having their fair share of moans on the matter.

“As part of our vision to level up the UK with better connectivity and faster broadband speeds, we’re looking at reforming the law so people can get the benefits of better connectivity as soon as possible,” said Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure.

Warman specifically wants input on three areas:

  • Issues that have arisen relating to obtaining and using Code agreements;
  • Rights to upgrade and share infrastructure; and
  • Difficulties relating to the renewal of expired agreements.

The consultation proposes reviewing automatic rights that are used when a base station needs to be upgraded or shared among operators to remove coverage blackspots, to make clear when these rights should be available. It’s presumably no coincidence that this review has been announced on the same day that most UK MNOs announced plans for a shared rural network.

“The Government has set ambitious targets on extending coverage and capacity and getting the regulatory framework right to enable operators to deploy their networks is essential,” said Hamish MacLeod, Director at Mobile UK. “We welcome the consultation on the Electronic Communications Code as a vital part of this strategy.”

If the government is serious about doing everything it can to improve mobile connectivity in the UK then this seems like very low-hanging fruit indeed. Reforming this law requires no public funds and would probably do far more than the piecemeal micro-incentives we’ve seen scattered around recently. The 5G rollout requires access to infrastructure, so we just need come up with a simple system whereby operators can access their kit and landowners are adequately compensated.


  1. Avatar John H 27/01/2021 @ 3:15 pm

    Scott, please can you elaborate on exactly what “regulatory shackles” were imposed by the EU on this UK legislation?

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 27/01/2021 @ 4:16 pm


      • Avatar John H 28/01/2021 @ 8:27 am

        Well, your first line implies that EU Regulations were making the ECC not fit for purpose- that seems quite important. But you have not detailed what regulations were causing a problem. It would be interesting to know what Ofcom are doing to now diverge from these uunspecified EU “shackles”.

        • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 28/01/2021 @ 9:04 am

          They’re doing what they want.

        • Avatar Sam speaks 29/01/2021 @ 11:34 am

          The facts are that the rules that cost UK people their jobs of which I was one they imposed weeeee charter that most companies could not stay to and that made them end employment
          And the rules where we could only use EU granted worker’s companies and was not allowed to consult with companies that had been in business for year’s like bt they had a monopoly on who what and where we could get resource’s from if it wasn’t EU then we couldn’t use it so in fact you have it wrong

    • Avatar Michael V 28/01/2021 @ 8:21 am

      @ John. I’m not sure exactly what they were but it has enabled blocking of mast sites being built of even upgraded. This give the British operators more power.
      Upgrading a site should never be a debate. People shouldn’t have the chance to block a mast from being built, but help the Operator find a place to build.
      I hope now we can get on with building out better coverage.

      • Avatar John H 28/01/2021 @ 8:43 am

        Michael, thanks but isn’t that something to do with Mobile infrastructure planning reforms, which as far as I am aware is a devolved and domestic legal framework- nothing to do with EU regulations or the European Electronic Communications Code?
        Happy to be corrected if I have got it wrong.

      • Avatar Milos 31/01/2021 @ 2:07 am

        Im not sure that ECC is blocki mast sharing.
        Only thing that could be is emission of frequencies per frequency range . If you have two operators on same mast on same technology or generation (sonits the same range) you have accumulation of radiation in that range. But thats now surely regulated in ECC. Its environment issue.
        Passive infrastructure is ex ante regulated sa well. Ofcom has mostly same approach as any continental regulator if we exclude Openreach issue.
        One of “worst” problem of Ofcom is that gave better wholesale product than continental europe and that lower investment in fiber because you could just sale a wholesale product that was enough for customer

  2. Avatar Rónán 28/01/2021 @ 11:19 am

    While I admire and respect the UK reasserting their independence from the EU & hope one day, the Union will go back to a loose trading block of nations, the articles on this website are very biased with constant EU digs…
    Maybe a little impartiality going forward guys??

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 28/01/2021 @ 11:24 am


      • Avatar Alexander Sterling 29/01/2021 @ 8:15 am

        Scott, maybe you should try a little bit of introspection? People are coming to your article with criticisms and concerns about the quality of writing, information and impartiality and firing back demands for further information is not a valid response.

        Everyone’s made it fairly clear what their issues are but instead of looking at your writing to assess what’s driving these concerns and how you could improve you’re instead doing the polite equivalent of saying ‘nut up or shut up’.

        As the writer it’s your responsibility to meet reader standards and address concerns, not the commentors’ responsibility to give you a dissertation level break down of your failings.

        • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 29/01/2021 @ 9:23 am

          yes it is

      • Avatar Laitainion 29/01/2021 @ 9:06 am

        How about the comment about throwing of the EU shackles without offering any explanation about what EU rules/bureaucracy prevent led this from being done before leaving the EU. You even questioned the need to explain when John H asked for specifics.

        • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 29/01/2021 @ 9:24 am

          what’s your point?

  3. Avatar Colin Peterson 01/02/2021 @ 11:58 am

    Scott this is really quite uncomfortable to read. People want to discuss your comment about ‘Europe’s regulatory shackles’ – you have to admit the choice of language is quite partisan – and your responses are defensive, blunt and actually a bit rude. Why not just be civil?

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 01/02/2021 @ 12:08 pm

      I am

  4. Avatar Colin Peterson 01/02/2021 @ 1:02 pm

    Well at least you are consistent

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