Government to review laws on land access for digital infrastructure

It wants to speed up the process of rolling out mobile coverage and broadband.
It wants to speed up the process of rolling out mobile coverage and broadband.

The Government has launched a consultation on whether to make changes to land access laws around the building of phone masts and broadband cabinets, to help speed up the rollout of better mobile and internet coverage.

Digital minister Matt Warman said the review would look at the legal framework around the building and maintaining of digital infrastructure on private and public land.

It follows reports from stakeholders that negotiations on such issues do not always run smoothly and can take a long time to complete, the Government said, which it suggested was holding back homes and businesses from accessing better mobile coverage and faster broadband connections.

A woman using her mobile phone
Improved digital infrastructure would lead to better mobile coverage (Yui Mok/PA)

The consultation will look at whether changes should be made to the Electronic Communications Code, which underpins agreements between landowners and telecoms operators in the UK.

“As part of our vision to level up the UK with better connectivity and faster broadband speeds, we’re looking at reforming the law so people can get the benefits of better connectivity as soon as possible,” Mr Warman said.

“We’re also investing £5.5 billion to roll out nationwide gigabit broadband and improve poor mobile coverage.”

The consultation proposes reviewing automatic rights which can be used when a phone mast needs to be upgraded from 4G to 5G to make it clearer when these rights should be available.

Views are also being sought on what happens when land agreements end and how they can be renewed.

Hamish MacLeod, director at Mobile UK, the industry body for mobile operators, said: “The Government has set ambitious targets on extending coverage and capacity and getting the regulatory framework right to enable operators to deploy their networks is essential.

“We welcome the consultation on the Electronic Communications Code as a vital part of this strategy.”