By JAMIE NIMMO, FINANCIAL MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 21:50 BST, 29 August 2020 | UPDATED: 01:58 BST, 31 August 2020
Mobile phone giant Vodafone has suffered a defeat in court that could open the door to a wave of legal challenges by landowners that host 5G phone masts.
Operators such as Vodafone pay landowners billions of pounds in rents every year at thousands of sites – but hoped to reduce these under the Electronic Communications Code, which was introduced in 2017.
It was designed to speed up the roll-out of 5G by cutting costs for operators hoping to install the infrastructure quickly and cheaply.
Vodafone alone spent £3.5billion in rents last year across its entire estate and tried to use the law in an early test case.
It wanted to cut its rent bill for a site owned by a Monaco-based property tycoon but lost in the County Court in Manchester.
Judge Martin Rodger QC ruled that Vodafone should pay rent to the landowner, Hanover Capital, based on the value to the operator as opposed to the value of the land itself, which would be much cheaper.
The judge said he came to his decision because four operators use the phone mast in a car park on an industrial estate outside Stockport. Vodafone estimates that only around 10 per cent of its 18,000 UK sites are shared with other operators. Although Vodafone was only hoping to slash a few thousand pounds off this particular bill, it had spent more than £300,000 fighting the case because of the significance for rents at its other phone masts across the country.
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