Reform of the Electronic Communications Code

Economic & Financial Consulting

September 19, 2016

Electronic Communications

After many years of reviews and negotiations, reforms to the electronic communications code are nearing finalisation. These reforms are expected to make it quicker, easier and cheaper to build, upgrade and share sites and are estimated to save the mobile industry over £1bn over the next 20 years. However, there are still issues to be worked through including whether the savings will be passed through to mobile operators and whether they will result in consumer benefits – for example better coverage, better data provision or lower prices.

Almost 5 years after the initial review commenced, reform of the Electronic Communications Code (“the Code”) is now part of Government policy.

The Code facilitates the installation and maintenance of electronic communications networks. Initially put in place to facilitate landline provision, it is now widely used by mobile operators who need to erect sites. Under the Code, operators are permitted to construct infrastructure on public land and have rights to install equipment on private land. On private land, the Code requires operators to contact the land owner before installing equipment but provides that when permission is not granted an operator can apply to the County Court to allow them to undertake the work. However, in contrast to the rights conferred on other types of utility provider, the Code does not tightly regulate the price that may be charged by the landowner for access.

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