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Press release

13 DEC 2019

Collaboration remains key: Telecoms Forum conference review

The 2019 RICS Telecoms Forum conference offered members the chance to get up-to-date with the latest market conditions and policy updates; collaboration was a recurring theme of the day.

Chair Mark Talbot opened the conference and introduced judge Elizabeth Cooke who outlined what the Lands Chamber expects from legal advisers and expert witnesses. She mentioned some significant decisions to date and gave lawyers some food for thought.

New guidance

Mark Talbot and Sue Doane introduced RICS Surveyors advising in respect of the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) guidance note, which was launched at the conference, with David Tretton of RICS bringing Red Book expertise to the table. Doane stated that 'the guidance applies to everyone and you ignore it at your peril'. Tretton noted that Red Book Global does not tell you how to value for telecoms, but does tell you how to deal with clients - with consistency, objectivity and transparency.

Later, Guy Fetherstonhaugh QC chaired a lively panel discussion on the ECC. Put simply, the old code favoured landowners; the new code is in the operator's favour. The government's intention was to speed up rollout of broadband and reduce costs. However, two years on, operators and landowners are not yet collaborating and agreements are keeping the Upper Tribunal busy.

Opinions around the table varied: 'People are using legal technicalities to avoid a cost conversation', 'It is too easy to say that operators need to do more. Deals can be done' right through to: 'You [operators] need to motivate landowners to welcome operators.'

One intervention from the audience was that the people in the room have the ability to solve the issue and move forward.

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Picture of telecoms forum conference RICS 2019
Collaboration was a prominent theme of the day at the 2019 RICS Telecoms Forum Conference

Legal updates and compliance

Wayne Clark and Stephanie Tozer of Falcon Chambers gave a legal update on the most recent court of appeal cases relevant to telecoms. They pointed out where they thought the law was ambiguous and may prove interesting going forward, and took a view on how it might affect valuation principles. Although each case must be assessed on its own merits, Gallyhearns and Threadgold cases may be important for future decisions.

Lisa Forte, social engineering and cyber security expert, had the audience in the palm of her hand with her retelling of recent cyber security attacks on companies, both large and small. Cyber attackers are sophisticated and run their operations like a business, with ROI, so the best defence is to make yourself a less desirable target.

Training is important, as is creating an atmosphere where staff are reassured that they won't be punished for making a mistake so that they report potential security issues early. Many of the audience went home with a note to test their own company's ability to withstand fraud.

RICS Telecoms Conference 2019 Highlights

See the highlights from the Telecoms Forum Conference in London.

Steve Sladdin, Head of Code Valuations, DOT Telecoms updated members about the mandatory content in the RICS Service Charge Code of Practice professional statement, which has been effective since 1 April 2019. He reminded delegates that the Threadgold tribunal so far shows that service charges are a consideration, and not a way to recover lost telecoms income for landlords.

Do you know where your health and safety responsibilities start and finish? Chris Stratton and James Bridgland emphasised the importance of knowing your duties - mainly because it is good business, but also because the penalties (large fines and unlimited imprisonment) can be severe if you get it wrong. Site owners, managing agents and site tenants (operators) should check their risks and responsibilities. Their talk was illustrated with some recent cases to draw attention to the accidents that do happen.

Technology and innovation

Mark Enzer, chief technical offer at Mott MacDonald, gave an overview of the Cambridge University-based project National Digital Twin, and how it relates to surveyors and valuation - covering what it is and why it's important. Interoperability across organisational boundaries is the aim so that we share relevant data across digital twins in one organisation – then share data across different organisations.

Raj Sivalingam, head of Innovation at WHP Telecoms covered the key issues for UK connectivity in the 2020s. His view is that we need reliable government policy and a 'sea of 4G with islands of 5G'.

Consultant Ric Reilly, partnered with Jonathan Stott of Gateley Hamer, echoed the collaboration message to conclude the day. In the West Midlands they have accelerated the rollout of 5G across three main cities and seven councils and tested, proved it and are sharing good practice in workshops across the country.