Home / People / Chris Watson
Portrait ofChris Watson

Chris Watson

Chair, Technology, Media & Communications

CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP
Cannon Place
78 Cannon Place - Cannon Street
United Kingdom
Languages English, French, Italian, Spanish, German

Chris Watson is one of the world’s leading communications law experts. He is Chair of the Management Board of the CMS Technology, Media and Communications sector group, and was previously Head of the group for eight years.

He focuses on international commercial matters in TMC, particularly in areas where competition and regulation overlap, and on EU law arising in cross-border and complex transactions.

Ranked by Chambers and Partners as Band 1 for Telecommunications in the UK, Chris is described by clients and contacts as "exceptionally bright", boasting an "amazingly international practice". Sources told Chambers and Partners: "He is very knowledgeable on telecoms regulation and competition law, and one of the nicest people you could ever meet."

He also has extensive experience in other regulated network sectors such as postal, electricity and other utilities and as well as broad experience on commercial, corporate, and financial matters.  

Chris is a sought after speaker and is frequently quoted in the media. He is a past member of the governing Council of the International Bar Association (IBA), chair of its Diversity Council and a past chairman of the Communications Law Committee. He is a member of the techUK Communications Infrastructure and Services Council.  Chris's memberships also include Supreme Court of England and Wales, and the Paris Bar. 

more less

Recognised as a "Global Elite Thought Leader".

Who’s Who Legal, 2020

Relevant experience

  • The World Bank on drafting, analysing and explaining the value of digital identity legislation and programmes for several African countries.
  • HP Inc. on the $1bn+ purchase of Samsung’s global printer business.
  • Liberty Global on the sale of its direct-to-home satellite TV operations in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to M7 Group.
  • CityFibre, the UK’s largest alternative provider of wholesale fibre network infrastructure, on a partnership with Vodafone to deliver ultra-fast Gigabit-capable full fibre broadband to up to 5 million homes and businesses across the UK by 2025.
  • Apollo Global Management on the European aspects of its acquisition of Phoenix Services International, LLC, a leading global provider of industrial technology services to steel mills.
  • Bahraini Telecommunications Regulatory Authority on regulatory issues regarding their National Broadband Network.
  • Cinven LLP on its bid to acquire a controlling stake in Telekom Slovenije.
  • The World Bank in relation to reform of the Lebanese telecommunications law, including drafting the new Law and Decrees in English and in French.
  • Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group on the acquisition of NTL’s broadcast business for a purchase price of GBP 1.27bn.
  • T-Mobile/One2One in relation to the inquiry by Oftel and the Competition Commission into the charges made by UK mobile operators for call termination.
  • National Grid on the replacement of its electricity operational telecommunications assets.
  • KPNQwest on the rollout of its pan-European network (including property, IT procurement and issues relating to co-ordination with other operators) and drafting sales contracts for sale of fibre, capacity and services on the network.
  • The Communications and Information Technology Commission, the Saudi Arabian telecommunications regulator, on the successful auction of a second GSM licence and, separately, of voice and data licences for a global consideration of USD 3.5bn.
  • The Office of the Telecommunications Authority in Hong Kong on the 3G licensing process.
  • The Jordan Telecommunications Regulatory Commission on the implementation of a new licensing/regulatory system.
more less

Memberships & Roles

  • Council Member, International Bar Association
more less

Lectures list

  • Speaker, Total Telecom Congress, London – 2019
  • Panelist, FT-ETNO Summit, A future model for broadband networks, Brussels - 2018
  • Speaker, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Digital Identity in a New Era of Data Protection, Geneva – 2018
  • Panelist, ECTA Regulatory Summit, Brussels – 2016
  • Panelist, Interlaw Diversity Forum, International Women's Day: Pledge for Parity, London - 2016
  • Speaker, Cyprus Office of Electronic Communications & Postal Regulations Stakeholder meeting – 2015
  • Speaker, American Bar Association Spring Meeting, San Francisco – 2015
  • Speaker, International Bar Association conference, Vienna – 2015
more less


  • MA Modern Languages, New College, Oxford
more less
10 key aspects of the revised EU competition law in the field of distribution...
The new Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (VBER) and the new accompanying Vertical Guidelines (VGL) were published on 10 May 2022. The new VBER will enter into force on 1 June 2022 and apply for the next twelve years. The new VBER/VGL introduce sev


International Digital Regulation Hub
Following the EU Commission plan “A Europe fit for the digital age”, we have witnessed a tsunami of digital regulations in the EU including DMA and DSA, AI Act, Data Act and there is still more to come.Whilst presenting companies with a tumultuous landscape to navigate, the legal obligations imposed also present opportunities to develop their business in a new digital framework safeguarding responsible business practices, fair competition and personal data.The CMS Digital Regulation Hub is home to our Digital Regulation Tracker Tool, providing an overview of the key regulatory instruments for area of law, sectors and business activities which are critical for decision makers as they adapt to the increasingly digital landscape.In addition to this unique tool, we explore the impact this tsunami of regulation is having for businesses across a variety of industries and how GCs can ride the waves to stay ahead of the curve. Our latest re­port il­lus­trates the key findings across Platforms, Content providers, Life Sciences & Healthcare, Energy & Infrastructure, Banking & Finance and Automotive industries.To discuss how to cope with the challenges of Digital Regulations and to explore the opportunities for your business, please contact one of our International experts.
5G: A reality check
If you were to ask the average citizen or business executive about 5G, they would probably tell you it’s been rolled out across most developed markets and making money. But this is not the case: deployment tends to be partial and patchy, and telcos are yet to see return on investment on the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been invested globally.In compiling this year’s edition of our 5G report, we spoke to legal and technology experts in over 50 markets to learn the true state of last-generation roll-outs across the world. We asked which technology companies are offering, whether consumers and industry can access it, whether it’s being monetised, where regulation stands, which spectrum is being used and how it’s being auctioned, how networks are being shared, whether network-specific cybersecurity measures are in place, and what each country’s positions are on Chinese network equipment.North America had the highest 5G penetration (41%) as of the end of 2022, according to Ericsson’s June 2023 Mobility Report. Behind that region were North East Asia (30%), the Gulf Cooperation Council (18%) and Western Europe (13%). By December, the vendor predicts that there will be 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions globally.In terms of number of 5G subscriptions, China is in the lead, with more than 60% of the world’s total (644m, versus 417m outside the country) as of the end of 2022.Other markets are home to technical quirks that are delaying 5G. In The Netherlands, for example, the 3.5 GHz band is not yet commercially available because NATO is operating a satellite 'listening station' with Inmarsat using the 3.4 and 3.8 GHz bands, and Inmarsat is using the 3.5GHz satellite traffic band to provide emergency communications to ships and aircrafts.The US and Canada dealt with interference between air traffic control systems and consumer 5G by setting up exclusion zones around airports. Spectrum rights - award and duration Spectrum rights have tended to cost far less than they did for 3G and 4G, because governments have recognised that high licence prices may have hampered investment.They are mainly awarded via tender or public auction, though in China, 5G licences are assigned directly to the four main telcos (China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom and China Broadnet).The duration varies across markets, from 15 (eg France) to 30 years (Chile) - often with five-year extensions.   Network and spectrum sharing agreements Network sharing agreements are already a priority in large countries with vast swathes of low population density regions that are expensive to connect. The US, like Africa before it, is seeing mobile as more efficient in rural areas than fixed-line (in this case fibre), which takes longer and is more expensive to deploy. T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T are offering separate Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) 5G services they hope will replace wired internet access in those areas.  According to Ericsson1, by 2028 more than 25% of global mobile data traffic will be through FWA, part of it with passive network sharing.In Australia, some state governments have proposed funding active network sharing initiatives in areas with low population density. For example, New South Wales’ Gig State programme includes a trial to fund the design and build of Multi-Operator Core Networks (MOCN), which enable active sharing between carriers. In the US, T-Mobile as part of its agreement to acquire Sprint, had to offer 5G network access to Dish, in a deal lasting until 2027. Standalone vs non-standalone As of January 2023, there were 229 commercial 5G networks, according to the GSMA. But in most countries, the majority of services sold as 5G are in fact non-standalone (NSA), meaning that the radio access network (RAN) is 5G, but the core network remains 4G.The Global Suppliers Association (GSA) says that 36 operators in 21 countries and territories have launched public standalone networks, while 111 operators in 52 countries are running trials, planned or actual deployments.In the meantime, the GSMA is forecasting that of the new 5G networks deployed in 2023, 15 will be standalone (SA). It noted that some operators have blamed the limited number of mobile devices that support standalone as a reason for delaying deployment.A notable exception is Singapore, whose telcos now all provide at least 50% outdoor coverage using standalone networks, with Singtel hitting 95% as of July 2022. Monetisation - consumer vs industrial Experts in almost all markets noted that telecom operators are yet to monetise 5G, especially in the consumer segment, where prices have remained the same as 4G. In Sweden, however, Telenor Sverige and Telia Sverige buck the trend, but offer enhanced benefits such as insurance, streaming services or more/unlimited data. Tele2 Sverige and Hi3G Access, for their part, have stopped offering new 4G subscriptions altogether. In Europe and Asia, the industrial segment is showing more promise thanks in part to government subsidies, though more time is needed to demonstrate use cases. Industrial 5G In most countries, it is telcos that are setting up industrial 5G, enabling private networks that connect specific areas such as factories and campuses. But starting this year, industrial companies in Sweden can apply directly for local licences to use radio transmitters in the 3.7 GHz and 26 GHz bands, enabling coverage in mines, harbours and hospitals. This year, the Spanish government announced it would reserve part of the 26 GHz band for direct award to industrial players, without the need for intermediation by telcos. The German Federal Network Agency has already allocated frequencies in the 3.7 to 3.8 GHz and 26 GHz bands for local 5G, meaning that more than 140 companies are now able to operate their own local networks.Network slicing, which enables multiple virtual networks to sit on top of a shared physical infrastructure, represents another way to offer differentiated services to enterprise clients across industries - though it requires SA 5G. However, because slicing uses software and virtualisation, telcos will both compete and partner with cloud providers. According to the GSMA, operators outside China have so far shown limited interest in slicing deployments due to concerns about return on investment. China The tech decoupling between the US and China has left other countries caught in the middle when it comes to selecting which companies will provide network equipment. Many European governments have signed up to the US ‘Clean Network’ initiative, with Portugal in May becoming the latest to show signs it will ban “high risk” vendors. Some countries like Brazil, Mexico and Turkey are remaining neutral, while others such as Bulgaria and Angola are entering into explicit partnerships with high risk vendors.In June, the Financial Times reported that the European Union was considering banning all member states from using equipment from companies that might present a security risk to 5G networks. Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Markets, told telecom ministers he was disappointed that only one third of member states had banned high risk vendors from “critical parts” of 5G infrastructure, which risked “exposing the union’s collective security.” Germany was named as a key outlier. Conclusion By and large, most countries covered in the survey appear committed to launching 5G, but progress has been slower than hoped due to factors including Covid, regulatory delays, and high costs for operators whose investors want to see return on investment. Governments appear to be trying to ease the way by lowering spectrum costs and removing some red tape, while telcos generally aren’t charging customers more for 5G than 4G. As roll-outs continue, and providers upgrade core networks to proper 5G, it is likely that telcos will continue the trend towards seeking outside investment by selling off infrastructure and sharing networks.The GSMA estimates that there are 400 million people who lack access to mobile broadband. Looking ahead, it is unclear how the expected launch of mobile satellite services (MSS) by the likes of Starlink, Kuiper, Vodafone+AST Space Mobile, and Orange+OneWeb will impact the deployment and profitability of the 5G networks in less populated areas. It is possible that 5G operators could face hurdles to monetising rural networks, which are part of their coverage obligations, depending on the level of competition from MSS service providers.Based on our conversations with clients, we see 5G as an example of a long-term investment subject to the short-term technological and commercial landscape and other challenges. In future, there will be a range of competing technologies: optical fibre, Wi-Fi7 and SA 5G (with network slicing) in populated areas, and a mixture of SA 5G, FWA and satellite mobile services in rural areas.All of them will serve both humans - and increasingly, IoT.SA 5G will become not just a way for individuals to communicate, but an environment for digital ecosystems housed in different network slices.In all scenarios, these technologies will have to co-exist and cooperate, providing the fullest service to the client - now, and as we head towards 6G. 1 Eric­sson: https://www.ericsson.com/en/reports-and-papers/mobility-report/dataforecasts/mobile-traffic-forecast?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5Y-qzby-_wIVQwgGAB3ZyAOVEAAYASAAEgI08PD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.dsSee also ht­tps://www.eric­sson.com/4a9aa7/as­sets/loc­al/cases/cus­tom­er-cases/2022/us­cel­lu­lar-bridging-di­git­al-di­vide.pdf.
5G regulation and law in United Kingdom
1. What is the state of 5G deployment in your country? 5G networks have been commercially available in the UK since 2019. Major mobile network operators have been gradually rolling out 5G services to...
TMT World Congress 2023
CMS lawyers are pleased to be attending the TMT World Congress 2023 held in London on 25-26 January.Below you can find an overview of our attending partners, representing a large range of jurisdictions and practice areas. To arrange a meeting, please contact the individual lawyers dir­ectly.Ad­di­tion­ally, the following CMS partners will be participating in these dis­cus­sions:Glob­al Co-Head of the TMC Group Dora Petrányi is participating in the CEO Fireside Chat - Strategies for the next wave of consolidation, convergence and competition, Thursday 26 January (10:25 – 10:40)Global Co-Head of Communications Anne Chitan will moderate the M&A Panel - Is there enough bandwidth for continued connectivity transactions?, Wednesday 25 January (11:30 – 12:10)Chair of Technology, Media and Communications sector group Chris Watson will moderate the break-out session - The Road to Responsible Data Processing - Improving Datacentre ESG outcomes, Wednesday 25 January (14:00 – 14:50)At CMS, we have some of Europe’s leading legal specialists in the technology, media and communications sector. Our Digital Communications Infrastructure Team combines exceptional expertise in project and structured finance, competition regulation and large-scale investment, while our market-leading tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions team has decades of experience in the technology and communications space, including strong expertise in the areas of fibre, towers, subsea cables, network sharing, data centres and satellite.To find out more about CMS Digital Communications Infrastructure cap­ab­il­it­ies, vis­it our Digital Communications Infrastructure section.For further information, please see our partners attending the congress in the gallery below and an overview of all our expertise areas.
Ofcom changes its approach to net neutrality: how the UK might spearhead...
Over the course of the last 12 months, a number of important developments in net neutrality have taken place at EU level: certain preliminary rulings resulted in the European body of telco regulator...
CMS - Meet our experts at The International Bar Association (IBA) Annual...
More than 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is located outside of the United States. So for US companies, establishing or growing their business and investments with their main trade partners – whether in the UK, the European Union, China, Africa or the Middle East – is essential for their success.However, doing business in diverse markets, each with its unique legal environment and ways of practicing law, requires specialist knowledge. Our more than 5,000 lawyers worldwide provide business-focused advice, whether in a single market or across multiple jurisdictions. Our focus is on building long-term partnerships to keep our clients ahead in their chosen markets.CMS lawyers are pleased to be attending the International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference from 30th October to 04th November 2022.Below you can find an overview of our partners attending the IBA Annual Conference, representing a range of jurisdictions, practice areas and sector specialisms.To arrange a meeting, please contact melania.kozyra@cmsleg­al.com.CMS lawyers will be participating in the following panel dis­cus­sions:France based Partner Annabelle Bail­leul-Mira­baud will be chairing Roundtables discussions of global tax trends, Wednesday 2 November (1430 - 1730)France based Partner Frédéric Roux and Michel Collet will participate in Roundtables discussions of global tax trends, Wednesday 2 November (1430 - 1730)Italy based Partner Paolo Bonolis will participate in the panel on Contracting of IT assets (digitalisation 2.0) in an increasingly complex regulatory environment, Monday 31 October (1430 - 1545)Italy based Partner Laura Opilio will take part in 3 panels:chairing Addressing dis­tri­bu­tion-re­lated shortages of medicines and medical devices from a multi-jur­is­dic­tion­al perspective meeting, Tuesday 1 November (1615 - 1730);Hot topics in international commerce, trade, franchising and product law, Monday 31 October (0930 - 1230);and Best practices in supply chain in the post (or continuing) Covid environment, the war in Ukraine and the impact of digitization, Wednesday 2 November (1615 - 1730)Germany based Partner Bjoern Gaul and Orly Gerbi of Herzog Fox Neeman, Israel will moderate a panel on New developments on Al in the workplace on 02.11.2022 (Wednesday) 9.30 h – 10.45 a.mEmployment and Industrial Relations Law Committee (Lead for moderators and speak­ers)Tech­no­logy Law Committee (one speaker) with the attending experts below:Patricia Barboza, CGM Advogados, BrazilSteven T. Hunt, Technology & Work, SAP Innovation Office, USACliff Jurkiewicz, Vice President, Strategy at Phenom, USAInge de Laat, Rutgers & Posch, Neth­er­landsAnthony J. Oncidi, Proskauer, USAVikram Shroff, Nishith Desai, IndiaYardenne Assa, Co-Founder and CEO, Unboxable, IsraelTo find out more about CMS, visit the About CMS section.For further information, please see our partners attending the conference in the gallery below and an overview of all our expertise areas.
CMS advises Ooredoo Group on the sale of its telecom business in Myanmar...
CMS has advised Ooredoo Group, an international communications company operating across the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia, on the sale of its telecom business in Myanmar to Nine Com­mu­nic­a­tions...
CMS appoints six new practice and sector group heads
CMS is pleased to announce new heads for four of its international expertise groups.All CMS lawyers work in cross-border groups across more than 40 countries worldwide that are structured according to...
CMS Technology, Media & Communications Global Brochure
Read about our expertise in advising Technology, Media and Communications players, and their financiers and investors, in our TMC brochure.
CMA publishes final decision in Cellnex / CK Hutchison UK towers inquiry 
In November 2020, Cellnex announced a series of acquisitions from CK Hutchison of nearly 25,000 tower estates across Italy, the UK, Ireland, Austria, Sweden and Denmark. While five of the six transactions...
The Mobile Century 2022
CMS is delighted to support The Mobile Century, a publication written by women in the digital space, published by the Global Telecom Women’s Network (GTWN).The GTWN 30th Anniversary Publication is a special edition. The theme “Re­flec­tions” brings together the perspectives of the older generation of women who have lived experience of the evolution of ICT over the past three decades and beyond, with women of the younger generation, while looking ahead to what work remains to be done.This seminal work includes essays by global experts in: Tech evolution from the early days of the internet and the mobile phone to today; Tech ESG and how digital technology can drive sustainability into the future; Tech safety, protecting yourself and others online; Tech equity, bridging the digital divide; and Future tech, with a focus on the impact of artificial intelligence. You can either browse the publication online or fill in your details below to download the full publication.
TMT World Congress
CMS is delighted to be back at the in-person TMT World Congress 2021. Our digital communications infrastructure team looks forward to connecting and re-connecting with you and other key leaders from...