BT is calling for an end to exclusive concessions agreements governing access to council-owned street furniture, in a bid to speed up the delivery of 4G and 5G services and boost mobile coverage in city centres.
Many local authorities currently operate a concessions model which grant a single mobile operator or infrastructure provider exclusive access to council-owned street furniture such as lamp posts and CCTV columns to locate mobile network equipment. These mini mobile masts or ‘small cells’ are essential for bringing enhanced mobile coverage and capacity to residents and businesses in urban centres.
Under the concessions model, other mobile operators who wish to access the same physical infrastructure to locate their small cells equipment need to pay a wholesale charge to the provider that has an exclusive agreement in place with the local authority. This can drive up costs for operators and stymie investment, while BT believes that changes to the Electronic Communications Code – which came into force in December 2017 – make such exclusivity agreements void.
In response, BT, which currently operates street furniture concessions across nine local authorities is proposing to end its exclusive agreements to encourage other local authorities and the wider industry to adopt an alternative ‘open access’ model.
BT believes that removing the current barriers to using street furniture will encourage mobile operators to invest in improving mobile coverage, capacity and speeds in towns and cities across the UK.