Telecoms mast rents are under pressure, says UFU

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has claimed that telecoms companies are using the Digital Economy Act of 2017 which includes the Electronic Communications Code, to drive down the prices farmers are paid for having masts on their land.

The UFU says this is unfair and risks damaging what has in the past been a good relationship based on fair pricing for access to land.

It has been claimed that in recent weeks UFU members have been approached by companies using the Code to justify a lower compensation offer as existing arrangements come to an end.

UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, says farmers must be ready to respond quickly with a sound financial case against the Code being used to justify a change in compensation arrangements.

He added: “While we expect current agreements to be honoured, what is happening stems directly from the Code. This is rooted in significantly reducing rent and compensation payments.

“Farmers must respond to correspondence in a reasonable time, so that they do not lose out by default.

“They must make clear the costs to their farm business for accommodating a mobile phone mast on their land. Potential issues over which a case can be made include inconvenience and access.”

Mr Chestnutt added: “Current agreements will be honoured but taking advise after may be a prudent course of action.” said

Mr Chestnutt urged UFU members affected to contact the union for advice and help.

Meanwhile, Arqiva Group Limited (Arqiva), the UK communications infrastructure company with a strong presence in Northern Ireland, recently reached an agreement with Cellnex for the sale of its telecoms infrastructure and related assets at an enterprise value of £2.0bn.

The transaction comprises c.7,400 of Arqiva’s cellular sites, including masts and towers as well as urban rooftop sites, and the right to market a further c.900 sites across the UK.

Cellnex is a significant pan-European tower operator with sites in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The acquisition continues Cellnex’s investment in the UK and follows their previously announced long-term strategic agreement with BT in June 2019, whereby Cellnex obtained the rights to operate and market 220 high towers located throughout the UK. 

The Arqiva telecoms division serves all four UK mobile network operators individually, as well as holding contracts with the two joint ventures they operate between them (Cornerstone (CTIL) and MBNL).

Arqiva’s towers operate on a neutral host basis.