Article by Sharon McDermott, managing director for telecoms law specialist Trenches Law

Telecoms, TelecommunicationsKeeping people connected has never been more important and following the Government’s £5bn proposal to commit to a UK-wide full fibre digital infrastructure roll-out by 2025, the future is looking bright for businesses as the economic recovery continues.

This year in particular has seen more demand being placed upon the telecoms industry – a sector that has been vital in enabling workforces to remain productive and allowing individuals to communicate effectively from various remote locations.

And with the possibilities of what a full fibre UK could present – such as high speed and reliability – these factors can be critical when it comes to creating jobs, developing new businesses and helping existing organisations to survive beyond the global crisis.

While the Government’s targets are ambitious, they are also achievable. But, it’s important to remain realistic during such transformational times as there will inevitably be obstacles to tackle throughout such a large-scale project.

The hidden complexities of full fibre roll outs

When presented with vast plans to completely revamp the way in which all UK-wide companies operate and communicate, there are many considerations to be made – and negotiations to be held – with freeholders and/or leaseholders to ensure the smooth running of network expansion.

A huge area that may be overlooked – often because of its niche nature – is the wayleave process. This is the permission granted by a landowner which typically centres around the purpose of installing telegraph poles and cables or ducting and fibre.

Despite 20-30% properties in a build project requiring wayleave consents, many operators won’t have even considered how much of a wider hidden cost this could entail. Such an oversight can set them back up to £950 in surveyor rates and nearly £1,500 per wayleave in traditional law firms’ fees. Add to that the expense and resource constraints that come with planning too, for example, and suddenly the project becomes more complex and costly than first anticipated.

It’s vital that emerging case law is taken seriously so it can help operators in this respect, and that the Government continues to communicate with telecoms law experts who can provide the critical education required throughout the build.

Ensuring individuals aren’t forgotten

There are also difficulties concerning people who are based in the UK’s hard-to-reach areas – how will they receive the vital support they need to feel less isolated and more connected? Plans have been tentatively published – via a three-tiered, technology-agnostic Gigabit Broadband Framework (F20 project) – but that’s going to prove to be more than a minor bump in the road.

With more considerations to be made, there is certainly a demanding handful of years on the horizon for this type of project. And while it’s reassuring to see plans for a gigabit future taking shape, it won’t be as straightforward as many believe – unless industry collaboration and suitably skilled project teams are firmly in place.

About the author

Sharon McDermottTrenches Law’s co-founder, Sharon McDermott, is a senior telecommunications lawyer having spent 18 years with Virgin Media, mainly as head of legal services. Here, she negotiated large deals in sales, wholesale, retail and the public sector before moving on to manage vast procurement contracts. Now a driving force behind the mission of telecoms specialist, Trenches Law, Sharon – a passionate advocate for women in tech – empowers a team to deliver straight-talking, business-changing legal support to clients large and small.


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