Landlords could miss out on £50m per year, according to research
By Ben Gartside and Matthew Field, 4 April 2021
The economy will take a hit of £7.4bn due to the slow rollout of 5G if a dispute between landlords and telecoms companies continues to hold back the technology.
Economists have warned reforms that aimed to reduce the rents telecoms operators pay to landlords for deploying new equipment have held up the spread of faster mobile phone signals across Britain.
The 2017 reforms, under the Electronic Communications Code, have instead led to lengthy legal battles as operators attempt to push down rents, while being opposed by uncooperative landowners.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said the government should adopt alternative rules to rebalance how much site owners receive.
The Government is currently consulting on changes which the CEBR argue would cost landowners £50m per year and set back GDP by billions as 5G installations become mired in disputes.
Protect & Connect, a campaign group supporting landlords which has championed the CEBR report, said it provided evidence the government should change its approach.
Anna Turley, Chair of Protect & Connect said: “The fastest way to achieve the ambition of a digitally connected UK is to ensure a fair deal for site owners, or there is no incentive for anyone to host a site.
“Unfortunately the 2017 reforms have not achieved what they set out to do. Instead of accelerating the roll-out of broadband, something we all want to see, it is clear that the changes have actually hindered it, as operators have sought to maximise the reductions through legal action.”
However, the report was disputed by the Speed Up Britain campaign, which is supported by telecoms companies. The campaign has called on the government to close legal loopholes and make it easier for mobile companies to access and upgrade sites without lengthy negotiations and legal costs spiralling into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
A spokesman for the Speed Up Britain campaign said: “We agree on the need for Code reform but we believe it should be focused on enabling the existing law to work as the Government intended.
“The current approach brings telecoms infrastructure more into line with other essential services such as the utilities, which is critical if we’re to speed up the roll out of 5G, save consumers significant extra cost, and help the economy to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”