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BT proposes open access approach to street furniture to counter exclusive concessions

Jasper Hart
March 22, 2019

The company will be holding a workshop in April to explain the approach

BT is proposing an open access approach to council-owned street furniture and calling for an end to the exclusive concessions agreements which local authorities in the UK use to grant a single mobile operator access to the furniture.

Under the current concessions, other operators who wish to use the furniture (which includes lampposts and CCTV columns) to bring enhanced coverage and capacity, have to pay a wholesale charge to the provider that already has an exclusive agreement with the local authority.

The company will be holding a workshop with local authorities and operators in April to explain what it sees as the benefits of an open access approach and to discuss to to apply it in practice. The workshop will be in Birmingham, co-hosted by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Mobile UK.

BT’s open access approach would allow all mobile operators to access street furniture on an equivalent basis, by paying a low-cost flat fee to the local authority.

BT Group director of network strategy Paul Ceely said: “While the concessions model made sense in the early 2010’s when it first came into common use, the market and regulatory landscape have changed and it’s become clear that exclusivity agreements act as a barrier to further 4G and 5G investments. Government initiatives such as the DCMS Barrier Busting taskforce are showing the way, but we believe that industry needs to act. We are leading the way by handing back exclusivity in nine key areas.

“The UK needs an alternative approach which sees industry and local authorities working together to share these street sites in an open and collaborative way. This will create the right environment for long-term investment and innovation in future mobile networks. We believe Open Access will be critical in ensuring the UK has the best mobile infrastructure in place to maintain its position as one of the world’s leading digital economies.”

WMCA director of public service reform Henry Kippin said: “The timing and spirit of this Open Access initiative is ideal as we will make faster progress through operators and public services working together to a shared agenda so that 5G can fulfil its full potential in driving economic growth that can benefit all our diverse communities. We are looking forward to welcoming authorities from across the UK and all the mobile operators who will come together and set out a new way of working together.”

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