O2, Vodafone and Virgin Media have welcomed Government plans to make it easier for networks to access mobile mast sites.
The networks responded as culture minister Ed Vaizey outlined plans to rewrite the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which was previously been viewed as a major barrier to rolling out mobile coverage. The reform was announced during the Queen’s speech, as part of a new Digital Economy Bill.
In documents released by the Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), Vaizey explained that new Code would give mobile networks new rights to access mobile mast sits, deploy new infrastructure and upgrade existing systems. He said this will put operators on equal footing to utility providers.
Calling for collaboration
Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge praised the reforms, calling on landowners to work with networks to implement the changes. He said: 'Government should be applauded for reforming the Electronic Communications Code. Cutting through the planning red tape will help us invest where demand for ultrafast broadband is greatest. Local authorities and land owners now need to work with us to grant permissions.'
Step in the right direction
His comments were echoed by O2 chief Ronan Dunne, who branded the current market as one that is still behind the times when it comes to mobile connectivity. Describing the ECC reforms as a step in the right direction, Dunne called for more to be done.
'This infrastructure is critical to business efficiency, to productivity, to the economy and to our future - but at the moment we are stuck in analogue mode,' he said. Whilst it is a step in the right direction for the rural areas not yet benefitting from mobile connectivity, investment in digital infrastructure is not just about reducing these connectivity blackspots; with an ever-increasing demand for data, networks will soon be overwhelmed, even in major cities, and this needs to be addressed.
'Solving this issue not only requires a bold, long-term vision, it requires leadership and collective effort by industry, government, local authorities, regulators and the public. Today’s Bill sets us on the right path. If we act now, and work together to deliver the promises set out, we can shore up our digital infrastructure and secure our economic future.'
Vodafone has long called for changes to current Code, describing it as one that was 'out of step with modern communications'. A spokesperson for the network said the business would now seek to work with the Government to ensure the changes are rolled out as soon as possible.
'We are pleased the Government is finally reforming the Electronic Communications Code. Sustainable agreements with site providers are key to us being able to deploy and maintain our infrastructure in an effective way and provide our customers with the services they want. The Code underpins these agreements but for many years has been out of step with modern communications. We look forward to working closely with Government on the detail to ensure the necessary legislation is brought forward as quickly as possible.'