Why rolling out infrastructure is critical to our communities

Why rolling out infrastructure is critical to our communities

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Can you introduce your partnership with Cornerstone?

Cluttons has partnered with Cornerstone since its inception. During this time, we have enjoyed developing a deep knowledge of the business and its people while applying our market insight and experience to their strategy and challenges.

Cluttons is a strategic property consultancy that offers property knowledge from a diverse group of experts. For over 20 years we have been the leader in property advice for mobile operators and fixed-line providers both in the UK and internationally.

The pace of change in the industry has been colossal. As Cornerstone’s outsourced estate’s function, it has enabled Cluttons to support and join Cornerstone on a journey, rolling out 4G and 5G and optimising its existing estate whilst guiding on and dealing with the complexities of changing legislation. The partnership’s ‘one team’ ethos has always allowed our team to feel like an extension of Cornerstone’s organisation and has further supported the collaborative approach to day-to-day delivery.

Cluttons provide a wide range of services for Cornerstone, including estate strategy, paying rent to their landlords, managing lease events such as renewals, rent reviews, access management, lift and shift, terminations and disposals. This means that in some cases we speak to landlords as frequently as Cornerstone, with many landlords having a longstanding relationship with our team members dating back 10-15 + years.

The partnership ‘one team’ approach is key for us and significantly underpins successful communication and our ability to deliver ultimate value.

Darren Zitren

What are the main changes you have seen in the UK over the years regarding telecoms infrastructure?

The global pandemic highlighted the importance of fast and reliable mobile and broadband connections. The shift in working patterns has resulted in expectations from people that we should have seamless connectivity, whether at home, on the move, or in the office. The UK Government has committed to being a world leader in 5G with access to the majority of the population by 2030.

Whilst things are improving rapidly, our research found that only 41% of consumers believe their mobile connection is fast and reliable enough to do what they want online. With the change in legislation of the Electronic Communications Code in 2017, rollout and upgrades are still not close to anticipated levels. Therefore, we believe there is still a wider educational piece to be developed and rolled out to all groups of people – consumers, businesses, local authorities, and MPs, to really highlight the meaning and value of connectivity.

With constant change occurring in the property and telecoms industry and the public demand for mobile connectivity, what do you think we can do to help our landlords keep up to date and better understand the importance of infrastructure?

It is fundamental that our landlords and the wider community (benefitting from the mast/electronic communications apparatus on their land) understand the true value of connectivity. Each site is integral to the network, and every landlord plays a part in keeping the UK connected and within immediate access to information. The recent research by Cluttons found that 84% of households have a smartphone, 36% of households use wearable technologies and 35% of households have a streaming media player. In light of this, the importance of widely available, good-quality connectivity has never been so evident. Millions in the UK have been confined to their homes and forced to rely on digital connectivity to access, and maintain, many aspects of their daily existence.

Cornerstone has produced some excellent content on this within the video hub on its website, and I highly recommend taking the time to view it.

What are the challenges we face in rolling out infrastructure?

Education is key. The fact that we are still encountering difficulties with the understanding and awareness within Local Authorities highlights the issues mobile operators face in rolling out and upgrading their networks. The research by Cluttons highlighted that Local Authorities can have a significant role to play in accelerating rollout and that having the funding and a digital strategy in place is critical to avoid being ‘left behind’. This is particularly important when compared to other advanced economies.  Currently, within the G7 we are around 4th place, which we need to address quickly.

What do you think needs to be done to overcome these challenges?

A good starting place would be for all Local Authorities to appoint digital champions that are supported with budget and resources. This proposed appointment of digital champions will play a key role in developing and implementing a digital strategy and enabling a collaborative approach with mobile operators and fixed-line providers to improve connectivity within communities. We have seen some Local Authorities already taking this approach with real success – such as the collaborative approach the City of London is taking across the various London Boroughs, and the advances West Midlands 5G Authority has made with its digital strategy and implementation. Cornerstone has been doing some excellent work with Local Authorities to educate on the digital benefits for local areas by improving connectivity. The Shared Rural Network is an excellent example of the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) collaborative approach with the government to provide 4G coverage to 95% of the UK, enabling communities to thrive and benefit from digital connectivity. There is a significant investment from the MNOs c.£500m + to connect communities in the most remote rural locations to eliminate not-spots, highlighting the commitment to improving the UK’s digital infrastructure.

What do you think the impact would be on our communities if we don’t keep up with the pace needed?

I think it is simple. If we don’t keep up with the pace, we will be left behind on the world stage, and the much-needed levelling up of the UK will not be successful. Working collaboratively with all stakeholders to identify and remove barriers is fundamental if we are to achieve the government’s aspirations for almost complete 5G coverage by 2030. Fast, reliable connections are essential to ensure the country’s growth and economic resilience. Not only that, but they are crucial for each part of levelling up including education, regional employment and investment and access to health and social care. It will help support all regions of the UK to bounce back from the impacts of things like the global pandemic and succeed outside the EU, and address longstanding gaps in productivity and equality by adding value to all parts of the country.