Broadband Industry Demands Planning Reform For FTTP & 5G Rollout


Industry body BSG says local, central governments and providers must work together to eliminate barriers for FTTP and 5G

The UK government needs to ensure consistent planning regulations are applied across the country if its connectivity ambitions to be realised, according to a new report from the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) that investigated the barriers to network infrastructure deployment.

Telecoms providers have argued for years that there is too much red tape and far too many discrepancies in local planning laws. And now the industry body hopes to capitalise on Westminster’s recent appetite for ‘pure’ fibre networks and 5G.

Among the report’s main recommendations is the creation of a cross departmental government unit to break down barriers and for ministers to work with the industry on a digital communications infrastructure strategy.


Telco rollout

The BSG also accepts that operators and infrastructure builders could do more as well. It wants providers to share more information and to understand the concerns of local authorities.

The increasing role of fixed and mobile coverage in work and life has led to the issue of connectivity being raised by politicians and lobbyists on a number of occasions in recent years, particularly by those who suffer from slow speeds or non-existent coverage.

A number of initiatives, such as geographical mobile coverage commitments and a proposed universal service obligation (USO), have looked to remedy the situation, but attention is already being turned towards fibre to the premise (FTTP) and 5G.

However the BSG says that as telcos enter a new investment cycle, regulations that govern road digging or where small cells can be placed for example, could slow rollout and increase expenses – harming consumers and businesses in the long run.

“Building infrastructure in the UK is extremely tough – due to our geography and legacy systems. But also due to regulation,” said Richard Hooper, chair of the BSG. “We need to remove these barriers to ensure we get the digital infrastructure that our economy depends on.

“On their own, these barriers can seem small but a multitude of marginal gains can add up to more than the sum of their parts. We believe that this is the case here. Removing these barriers will help unlock investment and deliver networks with better coverage, capacity and quality.”

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Infrastructure investment

The BSG hopes its report will provide a “solid base” for the future, acknowledging that proposed changes to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), the recent Ofcom communications review and EU directives have helped ease the regulatory landscape.

“We will work with Government and local authorities and telecoms operators to implement these changes and the adoption of best practice,” added Matthew Evans, BSG CEO. “We appreciate that there are a number of areas that we excluded from the remit of the report, including wayleaves, business rates, access to energy and potential barriers to small cell deployment. We will be looking to conduct further work in some of these areas in the future.”

A separate report from the BSG earlier this year expressed the concerns of the industry as the UK gears up for Brexit negotiations. It called on the government to ensure the sector had regulatory certainty and access to talent, markets and cross-border services.

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