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Portrait of Chris Watson

Chris Watson

Global Head of TMC

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

Chris Watson is one of the world’s leading communications law experts. He is Global Head of the CMS Technology, Media and Communications group and leads an international team of over 300 lawyers.
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.
Chris is included as one of a handful of “Global Elite Thought Leaders” in Who’s Who Legal: Data 2020. His recognition as a Who’s Who Legal “Global Leader” in the categories of Data - Information Technology, and Data - Telecoms & Media also goes back for several years.
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. Chris's memberships also include Supreme Court of England and Wales, and the Paris Bar. 

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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.
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Memberships & Roles

  • Council Member, International Bar Association
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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
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  • MA Modern Languages, New College, Oxford
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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


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...
TMC plus
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...
5G vis­ion video series
A video series on the de­ploy­ment of 5G across the world
Pan­dem­ic em­phas­ises de­mand for di­git­al
Hy­brid work­ing re­quires in­vest­ment Al­though the roll out of 5G con­tin­ues around the globe, with 162 com­mer­cial net­works hav­ing launched world­wide at the time of writ­ing, pro­vi­sion is vari­able across dif­fer­ent geo­graph­ies. The pan­dem­ic has high­lighted the im­port­ance of re­li­able con­nectiv­ity and fast in­ter­net ac­cess, par­tic­u­larly in rur­al areas.Fast broad­band is now an es­sen­tial util­ity along­side power and wa­ter in many na­tions, pla­cing the tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions in­dustry in the spot­light. While the di­git­al trans­form­a­tion was well un­der­way pri­or to the pan­dem­ic, from smart in­fra­struc­ture and the In­ter­net of Things to di­git­al en­ter­tain­ment and di­git­al fin­ance, the cent­ral­ity of the in­ter­net in our daily lives was put in­to sharp fo­cus. As the ‘new nor­mal’ emerges, and flex­ible work­ing mod­els be­come more pre­val­ent, sig­ni­fic­ant di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment to provide re­li­able, su­per­fast con­nectiv­ity is es­sen­tial. Pre-pan­dem­ic, 5G rol­lout was the fo­cus of many West­ern na­tions, and re­mains a pri­or­ity, but cov­er­age is frag­men­ted. It is still un­clear how net­works will be con­sol­id­ated where a mix of equip­ment has been used.COV­ID-19 has demon­strated the need for in­vest­ment in a bal­anced range of di­git­al tech­no­lo­gies. The use of cloud ser­vices con­tin­ues to grow and, dur­ing 2020 and 2021, it has been used as much for col­lab­or­a­tion as for stor­ing con­tent. From data centres to sub­sea cables, satel­lite in­ter­net and Smart Cit­ies, the glob­al ac­cel­er­a­tion of di­git­al trends of­fers up many in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment op­por­tun­it­ies. Geo­graphy driv­ing choice of tech­no­logy In densely pop­u­lated areas of de­veloped and emer­ging eco­nom­ies, new op­er­at­ors are rolling out fibre when the eco­nom­ics stack up. New fibre com­pan­ies are provid­ing neut­ral host struc­tures that are offered on a whole­sale basis to op­er­at­ors. In Feb­ru­ary 2021, KKR an­nounced it had entered in­to an agree­ment with Tele­fón­ica to es­tab­lish Chile’s first open ac­cess whole­sale fibre op­tics com­pany and, in Po­land, Or­ange Pol­ska and APG Group have formed a joint ven­ture to rol­lout a fibre net­work to 1.7m house­holds.In more rur­al loc­a­tions, where the unit costs of fibre are less fa­vour­able and the chal­lenge of con­nect­ing ‘the last mile’ is more acute, pro­viders are im­ple­ment­ing solu­tions such as fixed wire­less, mo­bile broad­band and satel­lite. Space: the new fron­ti­er Starlink is the satel­lite net­work that SpaceX is de­vel­op­ing to provide low-cost in­ter­net to re­mote loc­a­tions and in April 2021, the US Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion ap­proved SpaceX’s pro­pos­al to modi­fy its Starlink satel­lite li­cence. Re­por­ted to cost more than USD 10bn, the net­work of thou­sands of satel­lites is de­signed to de­liv­er high-speed in­ter­net any­where on the plan­et.Sim­il­ar plans for space-based in­ter­net are be­ing launched by OneWeb, whose ma­jor stake­hold­ers in­clude Eu­telsat, the UK gov­ern­ment and In­dia’s Bharti Glob­al. OneWeb’s fleet of 648 Low Earth Or­bit satel­lites are ex­pec­ted to de­liv­er high-speed, low-latency con­nectiv­ity to Alaska, North­ern Europe, Green­land, Ice­land, the Ar­tic Seas and Canada later this year, and glob­ally by the end of 2022. Data Centres to sup­port col­lab­or­a­tion while re­du­cing en­vir­on­ment­al foot­print As work­ers col­lab­or­ate re­motely and on­line trad­ing in­creases, latency be­comes more prob­lem­at­ic; more loc­al­ised data centres help re­duce the delays. It is not enough to have su­per­fast in­ter­net on the edges of the net­work, the sup­port­ing di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture must be out on the edge too.Data centres, while cent­ral to di­git­al trans­form­a­tion, are highly en­ergy in­tens­ive. Giv­en glob­al com­mit­ments on green­house gas emis­sions, the in­dustry is mak­ing strides to di­ver­si­fy data centre power gen­er­a­tion sources, with re­new­ables in­cor­por­ated in­to the mix. In­fra­struc­ture is be­ing built and up­graded to im­prove the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of data centres, par­tic­u­larly in man­aging the cool­ing pro­cess. Big Tech is lead­ing the charge Many di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects are be­ing driv­en by the large, mostly US, tech firms.Mi­crosoft, which op­er­ates more than 200 data centres, is plan­ning to build between 50 and 100 more each year ‘for the fore­see­able fu­ture’ as its Azure cloud foot­print grows. This in­cludes es­tab­lish­ing a pres­ence in ten new coun­tries by the end of 2021.Apple has plans to spend an ex­tra USD 80bn in the US over the next five years, open­ing new fa­cil­it­ies and de­vot­ing re­sources to fu­ture tech­no­lo­gies in­clud­ing 5G.Face­book re­cently an­nounced that it is in­vest­ing in two sub­sea cables con­nect­ing Singa­pore and In­done­sia to North Amer­ica.Google has in­ves­ted in at least fif­teen sub­sea fibre cable pro­jects.Amazon is a part-own­er of two cables and a ma­jor ca­pa­city buy­er of ca­pa­city in three oth­ers.Chinese com­pany Heng­tong Op­tic-Elec­tric Co. is build­ing its ‘Peace Cable’ for PCCW Glob­al and Or­ange and it will reach Mar­seille from China via Pakistan and East Africa in late-2021. Spe­cial­ist funds provid­ing fin­ance There is a rise in spe­cial­ist funds that only in­vest in di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture; Cube In­fra­struc­ture Man­agers in Lux­em­bourg has a vehicle in­vest­ing purely to sup­port fibre rol­lout in areas of Europe where high-ca­pa­city net­works are not yet de­ployed. In­sti­tu­tion­al in­vestors with long-term views now see tele­coms as a core strategy.With di­git­al now seen as crit­ic­al in­fra­struc­ture, in­creased For­eign Dir­ect In­vest­ment (FDI) con­trols are im­pact­ing on the deals in the di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture space. As na­tions fo­cus on se­cur­ity of sup­ply and crit­ic­al in­fra­struc­ture, they are in­creas­ingly scru­tin­ising who is be­hind each in­vest­ment.The pan­dem­ic has amp­li­fied the need for spend­ing on di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture, provid­ing in­vest­ment op­por­tun­it­ies across the globe. Where pre­vi­ously we saw com­pan­ies vy­ing for prime of­fice real-es­tate, the fu­ture will more likely see them com­pet­ing for the best data centre loc­a­tions. Soar­ing de­mand for cloud and in­ter­net-based ser­vices in Africa, for ex­ample, has seen large tech com­pan­ies, in­clud­ing the likes of Google, Amazon and Mi­crosoft, con­tin­ue to open data centres across the con­tin­ent.
CMS Net­work Shar­ing 4.5
On the brink of a new gen­er­a­tion
CMS ad­vises World­line on as­set di­vest­ments in Aus­tria, Bel­gi­um and Lux­em­bourg
In­ter­na­tion­al law firm CMS has ad­vised long­stand­ing cli­ent, World­line, a lead­ing European play­er in pay­ment ser­vices, on its di­vest­ment of busi­ness as­sets in Aus­tria, to buy­er, Glob­al Pay­ments s.r.o...
The Mo­bile Cen­tury 2021: The Fu­ture Re­ima­gined
Presen­ted by: CMS is de­lighted to be sup­port­ing the Glob­al Tele­com Wo­men’s Net­work (GT­WN) as spon­sor of the pub­lic­a­tion of its an­nu­al magazine, The Mo­bile Cen­tury, which will be re­leased on 4 March...
5G reg­u­la­tion and law in United King­dom
1. What is the state of 5G de­ploy­ment in your coun­try? The United King­dom is re­l­at­ively more ad­vanced than oth­er European coun­tries as far as 5G de­ploy­ment is con­cerned. The four largest mo­bile op­er­at­ors...
Fibre rol­lout needs more than words. The gaunt­let is now thrown down for...
It took clear, de­term­ined and force­ful reg­u­lat­ory ac­tion for the con­tin­ent­al broad­band rol­lout lead­ers, Spain and Por­tugal, to change the dy­nam­ics of their mar­kets. Some long es­tab­lished prac­tices had...