RICS London 2018 telecoms conference
Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Cross-industry collaboration is key to achieving UK connectivity benefits
The theme of the annual RICS Telecoms Conference in London focussed on connectivity. Discussions and presentations throughout the day debated current issues and how the digital world will benefit from the rollout of 5G. As technologies advance even further a futurologist asked everyone involved in the development of new technology to consider whether “…just because we could, does not mean that we should”. A thought provoker! Other highlights from the day were:
Mobile connectivity for Wales
Peter Williams – Technical Relationship Manager for the Welsh Government - opened the morning session with an engaging presentation on the vision to provide Wales with not only connected cities but a connected country. It was motivating to hear how despite difficult terrain challenges, determined collaborative working has delivered much-needed connectivity for communities.
Enabling and delivering the digital economy
Intrinsically linked with the connectivity theme was the Electronic Communications Code (ECC). In his keynote speech Wayne Clark, of Falcon Chambers, referenced a case ruling between Cornerstone (previously CTIL who are leading the industry in taking cases to the Lands Tribunal to settle disputes and get clarification about site access and renewals), and the University of London. During the Question and Answer session, he acknowledged that Landlords should try to negotiate site access agreements but called on the industry to “engage not enrage” this vital community.
The government view
The sentiment of engagement continued throughout the morning’s agenda. None more so than the Enabling and Delivering the Digital Economy panel debate where Melissa Giordano from the DCMS spoke about “…wanting to foster good relations between site providers and operators”.
The infrastructure services view
Belinda Fawcett – General Counsel and Director of Property and Estates at Cornerstone – observed that recent rulings which have set legal precedents have resulted in a shift in landlords and solicitors starting to engage more in conversation with Cornerstone to negotiate on sites instead of taking legal action. She asserted that “We, us, you, have to find a way forward. Otherwise, we are not going to achieve the goals of the Code legislation and, for 5G, to deliver the additional infrastructure in a cost-effective way for businesses and the communities where they live and work.” Twitter users welcomed her thoughts with comments including “Belinda making some extremely valid points around ECC”.
The landowner's view
Crown Estates were also very clear on how “connectivity lies at the heart of the success of our business” and that the value to them and their tenants of having good digital infrastructure" pails rent into insignificance compared to redevelopment, connectivity and flexibility.'
The panel debate created a lot of social media buzz and was a highlight for many delegates. Overall there was a desire for providers, agents and landlords to communicate, collaborate more and see the broader picture. If it does so, the UK can realise the mutual benefits of mobile connectivity today and in the future.
New code polarises RICS Telecoms Forum Conference
The following article by Mike Swain, Land Journal Editor at RICS summaries the conference and the Code Forum.
Problems implementing the new Electronic Communications Code dominated discussion at this year’s RICS Telecoms Forum Conference.
The packed hall was divided between operators pleading with all sides to engage with the Code and those representing owners who have become enraged at the way it is working. The result, in many cases, has been a stalemate.
Wayne Clark, of Falcon Chambers, who acts for landowners, gave a run-through of recent judgements on matters such as rights of access and consideration, where the opposing parties are still very polarised.
The new Code was meant to create a better relationship between operators and landowners, Melissa Giordano, Deputy Director, mobile infrastructure and spectrum at the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sports added.
The intention had been to change the basis of valuation and grant new powers of access.
“Operators kept telling us it had to be easier to get equipment on sites. I am an optimist, but I am not naïve. We know there are fundamental disagreements still,” she said.
Giordano admitted that prices could be “really tough” on landowners but case laws were making progress in interpreting the Code.
"We have to think of our industry as a vital utility and all recognise the importance of telecoms and connectivity."
Belinda Fawcett, Director of Property and Estate and General Counsel, CTIL