Autumn Training Day – Telecommunications operators and their mast-sharing arrangements

 

Introduction

  1. Anyone who has watched television, or, for that matter, been outside, will know that the telecommunications market is in a constantly evolving state.
  2. Operators are getting into bed with one another. Everything Everywhere (“EE”, the one with the ads featuring Kevin Bacon) is a joint enterprise of T-Mobile and Orange. We are increasingly seeing the use of jointly owned infrastructure companies in which operators vest leases and hardware.
  3. Sharing is driven by business considerations, but is also encouraged by the regulatory and planning framework in which operators operate. We can expect to see more of it, and novel forms of it.
  4. All of this sharing has implications for us, as property lawyers, whether we are negotiating leases for telecoms clients with one eye to the future of their networks, or are on the other side of the fence, acting for private landowners anxious to ensure that their income streams remain reasonably certain and clear into the future. With increasing frequency, we are also litigating against each other about potential breaches of lease terms, or about the meaning of leases (and the need to modernise them) on renewals.
  5. The question is whether or not our lease precedents are keeping up with the evolving technology and commercial realities of the telecommunications sector, and whether we need to update or supplement familiar drafting concepts to
    capture new ways in which land can be exploited economically.

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