Building owners, telcos spar over network infrastructure rules

Building owners, telcos spar over network infrastructure rules
Building owners, telcos spar over network infrastructure rules

The property and telecommunications industries are at odds over infrastructure rules that will set the stage for the 5G wireless network.

While building owners accuse mobile carriers of paying lower rents and an “increasingly aggressive interpretation" of the laws related to the way buildings are used for telecommunications equipment, mobile carriers say the allegation of widespread problems is questionable.

The Property Council of Australia says that with the Telecommunications Act 1997 and its code of practice under reviewed by the Commonwealth government, the powers and immunities given to providers of mobile network infrastructure must also be reformed.

Building owners are complaining that they are forced to give over space at below-market rents, put up with cables inappropriately and are left to manage redundant kit at the end of a lease when a carrier walks away, reported The Australian Financial Review.

"Telecommunications carriers, with legislative protection, are too often a law unto themselves, show little regard for building owners or other tenants, and pay next to no rent," Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison was cited as saying by the AFR.

"The days of offering $1 rent to use a building must end," he said.

The council says in its submission to the review that the 20-year-old act has no provision for low-cost dispute-resolution mechanism so building owners are forced to put up with problems as the courts as the only recourse.

The 5G  mobile telecommunication network, due to be in operation by 2020, will be more complex and denser than its predecessors, meaning more mobile infrastructure in buildings. 

Mobile networks top body, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, said regulatory processes need to be simplified to roll out the network that will underpin technology such as ultra high-definition video and the machine-to-machine communication of driverless vehicles.

"One of the fundamental characteristics of the regulatory environment needed is it must keep up with technology and reflect the deployment environment that industry has to work in," said AMTA chief executive Chris Althaus.

"Part of that will be working more closely with building owners, property owners, but equally part of it must be efficient regulation."

The federal Communications Department’s review is expected to be handed over to the government by the year end.  

It has already proposed amendments that would save telcos up to $100 million a year through measures such as raising the size thresholds of equipment that needs planning approvals and making it easier to install replacement towers.

Althaus said property owners and telcos should work together, but questioned the allegation of widespread problems.

"On balance, given the high volume of deployment that has taken place in this country over the last three decades, the number of concerns, complaints and troubled circumstances is relatively low," he said.

The Communications Department said there was strong demand by consumers and businesses for better communications services and that carrier powers and immunities were designed to strike the right balance between quick and effective deployment of infrastructure and community and property safeguards.


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