Digital connectivity is vital to the UK’s infrastructure and is the focus of the future; many commercial landlords are waking up to this fact and the need for them to take control of this in order to retain market appeal and their existing tenants. However, despite this realisation, a survey carried out by Bisnow saw that owners and developers are putting off installing in-building mobile connectivity services due to their cost. Yet, with Londoners' requirement for 38 million gigabytes of data, which accounts for a fifth of all the mobile data in the UK , this approach is not sustainable and may lead to poorly connected offices becoming obsolete. On top of this, The Connectivity Commercial Impact Report 2019, which was undertaken by Cluttons, saw that connectivity is now more important to office workers than good transport links and so it is likely that the landlords who are aware of this, and act on it, will benefit from better financial returns and higher demand for their buildings.
The Communications Code is also having an impact on technology infrastructure. One of the aims of the Code, which came into force on 28 December 2017, is to make it easier for network operators to install and maintain technology apparatus. Case law so far around the Code seems to suggest that public demand for better technology will prevail over the needs of landowners. For example, in the case of EE Ltd and another v Islington London Borough Council, the Upper Tribunal imposed a lease to enable EE to occupy part of the roof of a building owned by the Council, against the Council's wishes. The case of Cornerstone Telecommunications Ltd v University of London established the right for operators to access a property to carry out a survey to determine whether telecommunications equipment could be installed on it. The tide does seem to be turning in favour of the operator.
We have already seen how technology has affected Real Estate with the introduction of "Smart Buildings", however before we look at these new developments, we could be focussing on improving existing connectivity. Despite the changes in both the attitudes of landlords and the regulations for operators to improve connections, workers are still dissatisfied with their broadband speed and mobile and Wi-Fi coverage. With the introduction of 5G and the promise that it brings, we can only hope that it will tackle these issues and be a win-win for both landlords and their tenants.
It would seem also that survey respondents do not hold out much hope for the future in terms of improvements in connectivity. More than three quarters said they are not confident that their in-building connectivity infrastructure is sustainable or future-proof.