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Digital transformation project sees law firm accelerate UK’s gigabit-ready network roll out

Telecoms law specialist, Trenches Law, has ploughed more than 600 hours into the development of a bespoke digital transformation project that can automate the investigation, creation and distribution of wayleaves.

The new system is designed to handle tens of thousands more wayleaves per week, without the need for any additional human resources.

Industry reports have widely documented the Government’s aims to ensure the whole of the UK has access to a gigabit-ready digital network, by 2025. However, acknowledging that, on average, 20-30% of properties in a build project require wayleave consents, Trenches Law sought to devise a solution to help overcome these time-consuming obstacles, at pace.

Unable to find any ready-made technology capable of achieving this sizable challenge, the team embarked on its own development project, which began in February 2020. Work continued during the COVID-19 lockdown and has remained on track for its September launch.

Now, clients can send a digital map of their network build phase, to Trenches Law, and the new system will automatically interrogate Land Registry and other available databases to identify all relevant wayleave stakeholders. As a result of a mailing house integration, the system automatically produces all relevant documentation and prepares everything to be distributed.

A workflow then steers onward stakeholder dialogue, from the carrying out of face-to-face visits, to the negotiation of wayleave terms, the issuing of statutory notices as required, and advanced reporting that triggers a ‘green light’ when all build dependencies have been resolved.

The project is the brainchild of Trenches Law’s co-founder and operations director Terry Daniell, who began his career as a broadcast engineer with BT and went on to hold senior roles at Virgin Media. With more than 25 years’ experience in the telecoms sector, he strongly believes the market needed a shake-up.

“The ‘wayleave process’, as it is known, is one of the most multi-layered and convoluted legal journeys that a business, will navigate,” he said. “It involves multiple players – from private individuals to local authorities – and the completion of countless tasks, each having the potential to cause lengthy and costly delays.

“But the management of this complex procedure is embarrassingly outdated. Its manual nature takes up too much time and is consequently far more expensive than is necessary in a digital age.

“We therefore sought to challenge what has regretfully become an industry norm, and the result is the ability to execute the wayleave process quicker, easier, and with a greater degree of accuracy too.”

With further development already earmarked on Trenches Law’s automation roadmap, additional functionality will be introduced over the coming months. The solution – currently aimed at network operators – will also soon be made available to design and build teams tasked with finding the simplest and most effective cable routes.

“Despite common misconceptions, automation is not here to rid people of their jobs,” Terry continued. “It actually frees up colleagues’ time so that – instead of being bogged down with more arduous tasks – they can concentrate on the more value-adding, fulfilling elements of their role.

“All of these efficiencies are naturally passed on to the client, which means we’re able to help them build their networks at pace – irrespective of their size.”

With three offices in the south of England, Trenches Law was established in 2017 by Terry Daniell and Sharon McDermott, an experienced lawyer who has worked closely with the telecoms industry for almost 30 years. Her previous roles include head of legal, and head of wayleave, statutory and partner compliance at Virgin Media. Sharon predicts that Trenches Law will double in size by the end of 2020.

To coincide with the launch of the new system, Trenches Law has produced The Book of Wayleave a light-hearted insight into the wayleave challenges being encountered in industry.