The new telecommunications code came into force in December 2017. The act is an innovative step which is designed to give licensed telecoms operators statutory rights to place, and keep equipment, on private land. The aim is to improve connectivity; however, the code raises several issues which Landowners need to be alive to.
Major Changes – Disadvantages to Landowners
Site Sharing: Telecoms operators will have the right to share sites without the landowner’s consent. (Assume that this means in practice that if Vodaphone have a site. and EE would like to place equipment on that site, they can arrange this themselves without the Landlord being involved).
Assignment: Operators will have the right to assign their leases without landowner consent. It is important to note in relation to site sharing and assignment that these can happen regardless of any written agreement to prevent it.
Upgrades: Operators will have the right to upgrade equipment without landowner consent. Further clarity needed on the nature & extent of the upgrade permitted. (Assume this will become apparent as more sites become operational under the Code and caselaw develops).
Valuations: The valuation basis for telecoms sites will change from an open market basis to a 'no scheme' basis i.e. limit the payment so that it reflects the underlying value of the land. I assume the thinking behind this is that landowners can’t charge disproportionate rents.
Key issues: Disadvantages to Landowners
Advantages for Landowners
The main aim of the Code was to help facilitate the expansion of mobile and broadband networks as intended. However, there is a school of thought that the new Code may in fact have the opposite effect if landowners regard the new agreements to be more of a burden on their land than a benefit.