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UK consults on planning rules to accelerate rural mobile coverage

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The UK Government has launched a consultation on proposals to relax planning rules to improve rural mobile coverage.

The proposals include

•    changing the permitted height of new masts with the aim of promoting mast-sharing and minimising the need to build more infrastructure;

•    allowing existing ground-based masts to be strengthened without prior approval to enable sites to be upgraded for 5G and mast-sharing;

•    deploying radio equipment cabinets on protected and unprotected land without prior approval, excluding sites of special scientific interest; and

•    allowing building-based masts nearer to roads to support 5G and increase mobile coverage.

The Government is also seeking views on what measures industry could offer to mitigate the impact of any new infrastructure, including assurances of greater use of existing sites and the removal of redundant masts.

A third lack coverage

Research earlier this year from Which? found that 4G coverage from all four mobile operators in the UK only reaches 67% of the country’s geographical area, while 8% of the UK has no 4G mobile coverage at all. The Government has pledged to extend geographical 4G mobile coverage to 95%.

Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, commented, “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.”

Hamish MacLeod, Director at Mobile UK, said, “The current planning system does not support the fast, efficient rollout of 5G technology that is vital for the UK’s digital economy. We welcome the Government looking at simplifying planning processes to deliver better connectivity, and we stand ready to work in partnership to ensure these much-needed reforms happen as quickly as possible.”

The consultation closes on 5 November, 2019.