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Terry Daniell interviewed by Fibre Provider

Terry Daniell, operations director, recently shared more about our 2024 focus in an interview with Fibre Provider. If you missed the original write-up, you can catch up on the Trenches Law blog…

Trenches Law’s long-term priority is to ensure that the 25% of residential properties that require a wayleave aren’t left behind as the UK’s full fibre build progresses in a cost-squeezed environment. 

Operations Director Terry Daniell explains that operators are being priced out of installing fibre to some properties due to the cost of legal fees to negotiate wayleave by city law firms. “This can be up to £4,000 in some cases, plus the cost of surveyors, equipment, and installation, where they may perhaps see a return of £30 a month for a broadband subscription,” he explained.

Therefore, the two main facets of Trenches’ 2024 strategy are to ensure wayleave negotiations are cost-effective and successful, and to give altnet’s counsel on successful customer acquisition.

Daniell said: “Our unique mix of legal and telecoms expertise enables us to support the altnet community to focus their activity on areas of high probability of successful wayleave acquisition, thereby minimising wasted time, effort, and CapEx on areas with little chance of progression.

“Currently, we’re refining our commercial model to give cost certainty and increased focus on customer acquisition.” On this front he notes that the conversation around customer acquisition has largely focused on value and speed, but reliability and customer service are also critical. “Innovation and creativity will enable altnets to stay ahead of the incumbents,” he added.

“Altnets must also look to the future, when the full fibre rollout race is finished and start thinking about bringing new offerings to the table and coming together through mergers and acquisitions. They must also remain adaptable in an increasingly changing economic environment.”

Avoiding overbuild is also an area that Daniell cites as critical to ensuring uptake offsets wayleaves costs. He highlights the importance of data management, avoiding overbuild through local market intelligence.

“With the full fibre market beginning to look oversaturated, it’s crucial that the UK’s altnets avoid overbuild and battling for build space in the same areas,” he added. He advocates the use of Passive Infrastructure Access (PIA) networks, for the purpose of network sharing, as another way to avoid overbuild.

To play a more active role across both functions, Trenches Law sought, and was subsequently awarded Code powers by Ofcom in December 2023. Code powers are typically reserved for operators and providers, giving Trenches another string to its bow, enabling it to offer solutions to freeholders and operators alike.

Trenches aims to utilise these Code powers to streamline the wayleave process and step in where operators may be reluctant to do so due to brand protection concerns.  It will work with operators’ marketing and PR teams to help build up their brand as that is likely to help with obtaining more wayleaves, and more customers.

Daniell added: “As a neutral intermediary, we’re committed to fostering productive dialogue between stakeholders to help deliver the digital resources MDU and MBU occupants, amongst others, deserve.

“We’re also very honest when it comes to legal counsel, and we are happy to give direct feedback and views on positions. This stems from Trenches Law senior leadership team having a background in in-house legal counsel and being close to making strategic decisions.”

Daniell shares some of this counsel, highlighting first the success of social tariffs and network sharing in getting landlords to sign on the dotted line. Another consideration for landlords is concerns regarding fire stopping, which Daniell states is not something that many altnets can provide a solution to.

As well as attacking the digital divide by prioritising MDU and MBU deployments, Trenches Law has helped develop a framework for helping rural rollouts. In Q1 of 2023, Trenches Law was one of four parties, including Building Digital UK, National Parks England, and Openreach, to collaborate on the National Parks Accord, an initiative devised to standardise the approach to the delivery of next generation broadband in England’s ten national parks.

The Accord covers everything from network planning requirements, environmental impact assessments, engagements, consultations, and monitoring processes. The aim of the guidance is to strengthen communication between ISPs and the authorities within the national parks to support better connectivity in rural locations, while protecting the landscape in these preservation areas.

Daniell finished: “We aim to become the go-to partner enabling MDU and MBU deployment for operators, ensuring nobody is left behind in the fibre revolution.”

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