Government seeks evidence on utility network sharing in digital upgrades

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DDCMS) has issued a call for evidence on how utility infrastructure could be better used to support digital and telecoms improvements across the country.

The department plans to explore ways in which the Communications (Access to Infrastructure) Regulations 2016 – which include provisions for the sharing of physical infrastructure across the UK to deploy telecoms networks – could be improved to promote such infrastructure sharing.

It will review whether there are improvements that could be made to the regulations to further boost investment in infrastructure, and encourage the use of infrastructure sharing to deploy telecoms networks. It wants to hear in particular from the utility and telecoms industries. It said: “Our understanding is that to date, there has been limited use of these regulations.”

DDCMS commented: “The government wants to make it easier for telecoms operators to reuse existing passive infrastructure - e.g. ducts, poles or masts - to deploy new telecoms networks. To do this, we need to improve the market for passive infrastructure sharing by ensuring there are fewer barriers to use, and that the correct incentives exist at all layers. Sharing infrastructure can significantly reduce the time and cost it takes to roll out new broadband networks and improve the commercial returns for both the asset owner and the renter.”

Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, added: “We also welcome voluntary moves by infrastructure owners to open up access to their passive infrastructure for the deployment of next generation digital infrastructure.”

The call for evidence will run for 12 weeks, ending on 4 September 2020.