Public Services > Central Government

Government plans reform to boost UK’s digital infrastructure

Matteo Natalucci Published 19 October 2017

Changes to the UK’s Electronic Communications Code expected to speed up the rollout of mobile and broadband services in areas with poor mobile coverage


The government today laid the necessary draft regulations before Parliament to commence reform of the Electronic Communications Code (ECC).

The changes will help ensure network providers achieve the coverage and connectivity targets set by the government to reach the hardest-to-reach places in the UK.

The government reformed the code through the Digital Economy Act in April. The supporting regulations laid in Parliament today will bring it into force, taking effect, it is expected, in December 2017.

The ECC is the legislative framework that enables electronic communications network providers to construct networks

The new reform aims to reduce the costs of housing phone masts and other communications infrastructure on private land, allowing the development of faster and more reliable broadband and mobile services, particularly in rural areas.

The changes to the UK’s Electronic Communications Code include provisions for the reduction of rents telecoms operators pay to landowners to install equipment to be more in line with utilities providers as well as allow operators to more easily upgrade and share their equipment with other operators to help increase coverage.

Matt Hancock, minister of state for Digital, said, “It’s not good enough that many people are struggling with poor mobile and broadband connections which is why we are improving coverage across the UK.”

“We want everyone to benefit from the growth of digital services. Removing these outdated restrictions will help promote investment in new technologies such as 5G, and give mobile operators more freedom to improve their networks in hard-to-reach places.”

Mark Talbot, chair of the Royal Institute of Chartered (RICS) Surveyors Telecoms Forum Board said, “RICS recognises the critical role that a modern, efficient and equitable digital infrastructure has on the future development of the UK economy. RICS has worked closely with our colleagues in DCMS to ensure that the new code enables investment in our national digital infrastructure whilst balancing the needs of the public and private property owners.”

Hamish MacLeod, director of Mobile UK said, “The Electronic Communications Code is an important piece of the puzzle alongside further planning reform that will help mobile operators to overcome the challenges they face with expanding their networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.”

The old Electronic Communications Code was originally enacted in 1984, and became out-of-date as technology evolved, making it difficult for landowners and network operators to reach agreements and resolve disputes when rolling out modern digital infrastructure.

Mobile operators are required to deliver coverage to 90% of the UK and 95% of all homes and businesses will be able to get superfast broadband by the end of the year.


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