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    Mobile operators could be 'held to ransom' by farmers

    This is a discussion on Mobile operators could be 'held to ransom' by farmers within the General chat forums, part of the Community channel category; Mobile operators could be 'held to ransom' by farmers - Telegraph Landowners receiving income for hosting a mobile mast on ...

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      Mobile operators could be 'held to ransom' by farmers

      Mobile operators could be 'held to ransom' by farmers - Telegraph
      Landowners receiving income for hosting a mobile mast on their land could ramp up rents when an estimated 4,000 leases expire this year

      British mobile customers could be left without signal and face higher phone bills if the Government fails to prevent landowners from charging huge rents on mobile masts, according to operators.

      Mobile phone companies say some 4,000 sites where masts are built risk being left inaccessible if landowners try to ramp up charges when their leases end this year.

      The major operators EE, O2, Vodafone and Three are campaigning to slash the rent they pay for mast sites, which costs the industry at least 271m a year.

      They say the lack of legislation on rent charges mean farmers have almost unfettered power to increase the rent they charge for phone companies to access mast sites.


      In one mast site near Nettlebed, a village in Oxfordshire, the landowner is reportedly demanding 200,000 for perpetual access rights. The site is currently rented to mobile operators for 200 a year.

      The mobile industry argues this is unfair because the landowner can charge a huge mark-up because they already have a mast on their site. The typical mast can cost around 30,000 for the equipment alone.

      But this figure is expected to rise as up to a quarter of the lease agreements with landowners are due to expire this year, meaning new rents need to be negotiated.

      Operators are warning that signal blackspots could occur where disputes are ongoing, because the network would not be able to access the site if the mast needs to be repaired.

      The average annual rent for a rural mobile mast is 7,500, according to a report commissioned by the industry by Deloitte, but urban landlords receive much more an average 9,200.

      The row over so-called "ransom rents" charged for existing masts comes as the major operators are scrambling to meet Government targets to achieve 95pc geographical coverage by 2017.

      "There should be no obligation without protection," said Kip Meek, director of public policy at EE, which has 30pc share of the mobile market and has 18,000 masts.

      "This is costing us millions of pounds a year. The Government needs to press on with reforming the rules and provide greater protection from the unreasonable demands of landlords."

      There are some 34,000 mobile masts in Britain which cover 98pc of the UK population, but geographically this is closer to 85pc.

      Britain's mobile operators agreed to invest 5bn in improving mobile signal after intense political pressure. Sajid Javid, the Culture Secretary, signed the legally binding deal in 2014 but promised to reform out-of-date legislation.

      Existing legislation is "antiquated", said EE's Mr Meek, because it does not provide any cap on rents.

      Under the "Electronic Communications Code", land owners can charge higher rents compared to the market rates, because they know the mast has already been built.

      This contrasts to utilities companies, where rents for pylons or masts are based on the impact of facilities and the underlying value of the land. Mast rental costs on private land will continue to be up to 31 times higher than other utilities, operators say.

      The Government is consulting on the reform with an announcement expected at the state opening of Parliament in May, when the Queen reads out the Government's policies for the next year.

      Planning permission, particularly for small masts, is also a barrier.

      "We hope that the current planning consultation will lead to a reformed policy that allows this to happen," added Ronan Dunne, O2 UK chief executive.

      Speaking about a parliamentary debate held in December to debate the issue of mobile infrastructure, he said: "This is a much more progressive approach from politicians than simply haranguing the industry to work harder and faster, while declining themselves to pull the policy levers than that would enable it to do so."

      But farming groups argue slashing rents could be a major blow to the rural economy, where many farmers and rural landlords rely on rents to supplement their income.

      "We want rural mobile coverage as much as the operators, but we just don't believe rents is the barrier to achieving this," said Shane Brennan of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

      He criticised the industry's research into the rents for lack of transparency, adding that there are significant costs associated with hosting a mast, including access and disruption, as well as removing the use of the land.

      "We want a code to be implemented as soon as possible and get more mobile phone masts built. Excuses are all about these rents but where is the evidence?"

      Other proposals include pegging the rents to the market value of the land, with independent surveys used to calculate.


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      Re: Mobile operators could be 'held to ransom' by farmers

      AWWWWWW how sad. Mobile phone companies who have screwed the punter for years and years with their wildly inflated prices for phone contracts a call charges are getting screwed themselves. My heart bleeds.

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      Re: Mobile operators could be 'held to ransom' by farmers

      Unfortunately they are such a professional outfit that I think we can guess who'll be paying for it.

      Sky Fibre Unlimited Pro: Connected at 80,000 kbps / 20,000 kbps
      Previous ADSL2+ Speed 19999 kbps 1153 kbps, Line Attenuation 17.5 db 6.9 db, Noise Margin 7.5 dB 8.7 dB
      Speedtest: 17.15MB/s 0.97Mb/s Ping 31 ms

     

     

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