What will a world of 5G technology look like? If recent reports are anything to go by, it will be a world where your car drives itself and your fridge tells you when to order the milk….leaving the seemingly superfluous human with little else to do but surf the web at mind boggling speeds.
Some of us conceive of a world of intrigue and endless possibilities, whilst other prepare for the reign of robots. Some of us just don’t care.
But for landowners, particularly those with telecoms infrastructure on their land, now is the time to starting thinking about the impact and, indeed, possibilities of 5G technology and the ever increasing need to expand telecoms infrastructure.
Presently, the telecoms spectrum is supported by a network of telecoms equipment, principally in the form of masts, cabinets and satellite dishes and antennae. This equipment is typically installed on private land with the agreement of the landowner (usually in the form of a lease or a licence). This agreement is the primary basis for determining the extent of the equipment permitted on the land and the rights and restrictions to adjust and upgrade equipment and share its capabilities with other operators.
With the introduction of new technology and consumer demand, there is a corresponding need for operators to constantly adjust and upgrade telecoms infrastructure. This will be familiar to telecoms landowners following the recent 4G upgrade which demanded the installation and intensification of new and existing equipment.
In such circumstances, it is a question of whether the installation is permitted under the terms of the existing lease or licence. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. More often than not, the position is unclear. It is a question that has generated a significant volume of disputes between landowners and operators.
If changes proposed by the Law Commission become law (https://www.morrlaw.com/the-electronic-communications-code-an-update-on-reform/) then operators will have statutory rights to upgrade and intensify telecoms equipment. Until then, it is the private agreement between the parties which controls things.
In any event, with 5G on the horizon and the intensification of telecoms infrastructure looking inevitable, the tensions between landowners and operators looks set to continue.