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Landowners Set To Benefit From Countrywide Mobile Expansion Should Act To Protect Their Interests

Rural landowners across Scotland are to benefit financially from Government plans to open up large parts of the country to mobile phone use - but they should be realistic about rental expectations when representatives of big telecoms companies come knocking, according to experts at CKD Galbraith.

The Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) to bring mobile phone reception to more remote areas is aimed at connecting rural communities, creating jobs and boosting growth. All four major network operators will provide services to the MIP infrastructure, maximising benefits to consumers. The Westminster Government has identified the areas that will benefit through the mast-building programme. Target areas for the 150 million project, due to complete in 2015, include Highlands, Dumfries and Galloway, and Argyll and Bute.

CKD Galbraith welcomes the developments as many areas of the country have poor or non-existent mobile coverage. Benefits to those living in, working in or visiting upgraded areas will include better health and safety provision through improved communications, and better energy efficiency through smart metering systems using mobile networks. The firm also anticipates improved broadband service in these areas of the country and the wider rural community.

Remoter locations currently lack coverage as operators assessed there was insufficient mobile traffic to make them profitable. Without 100% population coverage obligations in their licences, the main companies excluded such areas from their networks.

CKD Galbraith's initial feedback from agents working for Arqiva, the communication infrastructure and media services company appointed to deliver MIP, suggests that the rents that will be offered for these remoter sites will be more than 50% lower than the current market rent paid for other rural sites. This is even though all four mobile operators will be operating from the sites, which would normally tend to push up rents.

"We envisage many landlords will welcome these sites and will agree to rents below the current market levels due to the improved coverage and other benefits they and their communities will receive," said Mike Reid, Head of Utilities Department at CKD Galbraith. However, he cautioned: "Careful consideration should be taken of other lease terms to protect their position and mitigate the operational impact of the sites on their land."

For the wider market, these sites should not be seen or used as close rental guides for current rural sites as they would not be built without Government assistance and are generally not comparable, said Mike Reid, adding: "Knowledge of these sites is important to ensure companies don't use locations as market' evidence to try to drive down rental levels on their current network. With our experience and knowledge of the market, we are well placed to advise landowners to maximise their potential from telecommunication sites."

Read about the Mobile Infrastructure Project and energy news and views in this summer's Energy Matters e-magazine, published by CKD Galbraith.