One of the biggest challenges for densification is the red tape that many cities wrap around site approvals for small cells. In markets where local or national governments have relaxed their regulations, such as Japan, there is a direct correlation to the progress of small cell roll-out – but these countries are few and far between still. Elsewhere, the USA has driven many of the most progressive ideas about standardized rules and blueprints for small cell sites, but these have foundered on the battle for control between the FCC and the municipal or state governments.
Now London is trying to do its bit to push the cause of dense urban 4G and 5G. The UK capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has published a new standard agreement designed to set out clear terms between commercial landlords, public property owners and operators.
The Electronic Communications Code, which regulates the legal relationship between landowners and operators, was updated in 2017 but has been much criticized for creating confusion and lacking practical recommendations – and lawyers claim legal disputes about the Code are already causing a barrier to small cell roll-out.
The standard agreement is a step to deliver Khan’s manifesto commitment to use public sector property more effectively for digital connectivity, as part of his Connected London program. It was developed in cooperation with the British Standards Institution (BSI) and a committee of representatives of the property and telecoms sectors.
Catherine Haslam, a lawyer and board member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ Telecoms Forum Board, commented: “Standardized access agreements are an essential step towards easing issues and delay in the telecommunications infrastructure development process, and removing mobile ‘not spots’ will crucially provide high speed services to owners, occupiers and the public. The imminent arrival of 5G technologies makes this initiative even more timely.”
Hamish MacLeod, Director at trade body Mobile UK, added: “Mobile UK welcomes these standard template agreements, which result from partnership between landowners, operators and other stakeholders, all of whom recognise the vital importance of mobile connectivity to the future prosperity of London and the UK more generally.”