Frequently asked questions
NB. This page does not attempt to cover all aspects of the Electronic Communications Code and it is not a legal interpretation of the Code.
- What is the Electronic Communications Code?
- Who does it apply to?
- What are Electronic Communications Code Notices and Counter-Notices?
- What is Ofcom's role?
- Does Ofcom have any power regarding the siting of mobile phone masts?
- What can I do if Ofcom cannot help and I want to take the matter further?
What is the Electronic Communications Code?
The Electronic Communications Code ("the Code") is set out in Schedule 2 to the Telecommunications Act 1984 as amended by Schedule 3 to the Communications Act 2003 (the Communications Act 2003 is referred to hereinafter as the "Act"). It sets out the powers that can be given to providers of electronic communications networks ('ECN's) and providers of conduit systems available for use by providers of ECNs to enable them to install and maintain electronic communications apparatus. Code powers allow operators to benefit from certain exemptions under Town and Country Planning legislation and also entitles them to carry out street works under the New Road and Street Works Act 1991 without needing to apply for a licence to do so.
Who does it apply to?
Section 106 of the Act allows the Ofcom to apply Code powers to providers of electronic communications networks ("ECN"s) and providers of conduit systems available for use by providers of ECNs. This is done by way of a direction under section 106 of the Act.
For those granted the Code when the licensing regime was still in force, the Act deems those persons to have been granted Code powers by way of a direction under section 106. Operators with powers under the Code can seek, by issuing an Electronic Communications Code Notice or Counter-Notice, to exercise these powers to perform works on land or to refuse to perform works on land.
What is Ofcom’s role?
As referred to above, Ofcom is now responsible for applying the Code i.e. granting Code powers. Ofcom is also responsible for maintaining a register of those to whom the Code applies (see Related Items) and enforcing the restrictions and conditions subject to which the Code applies. In addition, Ofcom is responsible for the approval of the notices that operators are required to serve when proposing to exercise Code powers. Paragraph 24 of the Code requires that a Notice served by an operator under the Code needs to be in a form approved by Ofcom. However, it is only the form of the notice which has to be approved not the notice being served in a particular situation. The "model notices" provided on this website are in a form that has already been approved by Ofcom (see Related Items). As such, further approval of the Notice will not be necessary if an operator merely inserts the details requested in the spaces provided in square brackets. If an operator does not follow the form of the "model notice", Ofcom must approve the form of the Notice that is used.
It is not Ofcom’s role to provide legal advice on the Code.
Does Ofcom have any power regarding the siting of mobile phone masts?
Mobile phone operators will normally require planning permission to erect mobile phone masts, which is the jurisdiction of Local Planning Authorities. However, Ofcom has a duty, in considering whether or not to grant Code powers, to have regard to the need to encourage the sharing of the use of electronic communications apparatus, including mobile phone masts. In addition under section 73 of the Act, Ofcom may set access-related conditions, if it believes that it is appropriate to do so. These can be used to secure, amongst other things, that operators with Code powers participate, where there is no alternative, in arrangements for sharing the use of electronic communications apparatus.
What can I do if Ofcom cannot help and I want to take the matter further?
If you are in doubt as to your legal rights or obligations, we advise that you seek independent legal advice.