Bigger and taller phone masts could be built across the UK in a government effort to boost rural mobile reception.
Current rules don’t allow structures over 25m tall to be built on public land. But as part of the UK government’s plans to increase connectivity and eradicate mobile reception blind spots, the Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said she wants planning restrictions to be eased so that bigger masts can be built by mobile networks that are developing 5G technology.
The government is keen to be a ‘world leader’ in 5G and claims that many economic benefits can be expected from the technology in the business, tourism and agricultural sectors. According to Ms Morgan, an addition of around 400,000 super masts could add up to £13 billion to the UK economy. 5G is already available in certain areas of a handful of British cities, provided by networks including Three and EE.
“The British countryside has always been a hotbed of pioneering industries and we’re making sure our rural communities aren’t left behind in the digital age,” said Ms Morgan. “We’re investing millions so the whole country can grasp the opportunities and economic benefits of next generation 5G technology.
“In modern Britain people expect to be connected wherever they are. And so we’re committed to securing widespread mobile coverage and must make sure we have the right planning laws to give the UK the best infrastructure to stay ahead.”
Esther McVey, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, said: “We’re committed to delivering the homes people across the country need, and that includes delivering the right infrastructure such as broadband connectivity and good mobile coverage. There is nothing more frustrating than moving into your new home to find signal is poor.
“That’s why we are proposing to simplify planning rules for installing the latest mobile technology – helping to extend coverage and banish more of those signal blackspots, particularly for those living in rural areas.”
The government is also setting up a 5G competition – called the Rural Connected Communities competition – which will choose 10 rural sites across the UK to test 5G technology. Each of the selected locations will win a share of a £30 million fund, and the government believes the programme will help to promote investment in rural communities.
However, the Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson, said: “This funding falls far short of the ambitious rollout we need to boost our digital infrastructure nationwide. 5G and full fibre will be the basis of the innovative, green technologies that will underpin our future economy, but the UK’s digital infrastructure is lagging embarrassingly behind. This government must take bolder, faster action to deliver the digital infrastructure we need.”