With fibre providers funded and set to roll out super fast broadband they must beware the delays that threaten their business model

With over £4bn of private funding received by fibre providers in the last three months alone, and a number of Government-backed levelling up schemes providing regional funding across the UK, there is a very real impetus toward the rollout of Gigabit capable and 5G connectivity.

Many of the fibre companies are under pressure and on a tight timeline to deliver and are ploughing ahead to roll out their network but careful upfront consideration needs to be given to the process in order that they don’t become tripped up by the challenge of access and wayleaves which, without a skilled consultant, can delay at each and every access request by weeks, if not months.

A typical wayleave agreement is started by the fibre provider who engages with the landlord or landowner, then instructs a survey to be completed which can take 2-3 weeks to be returned and then reviewed/agreed. The wayleave document is then issued to the landlord who, more often than not, sits on it because it’s not always their priority and they don’t really understand the legal terms. In a number of cases and on the advice of fibre providers, the landlords also instruct a legal firm and in some cases an agent themselves. If the wayleave agreement is not standard and requires heavy amendments it can get stuck between the various parties for more weeks and sometimes months.

Now imagine this scenario for hundreds, if not thousands of properties or sites that these fibre providers need to gain access to if they are to roll out their network effectively equipped with their new funding and the pressure that comes with that?

Or even a small regional provider who has been given a Government grant but doesn’t have access to legals or much sway with landlords.

Wayleaves are a legal document and each should be treated as a consultation and transaction. A strategy for the roll out of the networks should be embedding wayleaves at the very beginning and instruct a skilled and experienced consultant to manage all wayleaves overall as a central point of the process – it’s key to mobilisation of the entire network’s infrastructure. 

Cluttons has a specialist team that deals with wayleaves as part of their connectivity strategy and estates management. We know how to drive agreements through, how to manage all stakeholders and how to overcome anything that deviates from a standard template because we have seen every type of precedent in our work. We simply facilitate the rollout to happen by managing the landlord relationship, understanding their pain-points and pushing the wayleave through with minimal delays. 

Yes this may be another stakeholder to add to the number of parties involved but a representative who can drive forward progress of multiple agreements and facilitate the agreement of numerous parties in quick succession thanks to its unique know-how and relationships is definitely worth the investment when you think about how much cost delays, legal time and appeals cost – not to mention the cost of a failed business model.

Given the whole business model for fibre providers is to provide superfast connectivity, it’s important they aren’t slowed down in the roll out by not being able to achieve just this.

In the race to rollout networks and make the UK Gigabit ready, we know the providers who lead the way will be those who did not leave wayleaves too late.

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Darren Zitren

Partner – head of network estate management

T +44 (0) 20 7647 7041