New UK laws to speed up 5G rollout and eliminate ‘not spots’ | Mobile | News | Rapid TV News
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The UK government has announced new measures designed to eliminate mobile signal blind spots in rural areas and roads, and introduced changes to planning laws in in order to create what it says are ‘huge’ opportunities for rural economies and expand 5G but with a reduced number of phone masts.
EE site above Llanuwchllyn Bala 24Feb2021
The reforms are designed to remove what is said to be one of the biggest barriers to better coverage in the UK countryside, simultaneously reducing build time and costs for new infrastructure while protecting rural areas by minimising any visual impact. Under the proposals, mobile companies will be allowed to make new and existing masts up to five metres taller and two metres wider than current rules permit. This is designed to increase the range of masts and allow operators to fit more equipment on them so they can be more easily shared.

With its reforms the UK government claims that it can no less than “turbocharge” the delivery of the £1 billion Shared Rural Network (SRN) being built to eliminate 4G mobile ‘not spots’ in the countryside and will speed up rollout of next generation 5G networks. This latest part in the programme will also see the UK government aim to incentivise mobile firms to focus on improving existing masts over building new ones, with fewer new masts needed for rural communities to get a better signal and to take full advantage of future 5G-connected technology. This includes innovations in smart devices including TVs .

The new regulations will see stricter rules apply in protected areas, including national parks, the Broads, conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites. The plans also include proposals to bring better mobile coverage for road users by allowing building-based masts to be placed nearer to highways.

A joint technical consultation between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has been published with details of the changes. It will seek views on reforms to permitted development rights in England.

“We are setting out plans to make it easier for mobile firms to transform connectivity in the countryside and propel villages and towns out of the digital dark ages - providing a welcome boost for millions of families, businesses and visitors,” said UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden regarding the new move. “These practical changes strike a careful balance between removing unnecessary barriers holding back better coverage, while making sure we protect our precious landscape. Most new masts will still need to be approved by local authorities, which will have a say on where they are placed and their appearance. Robust conditions and limits will remain in place to make sure communities and stakeholders are properly consulted and the environment is protected.”

The consultation will also look at greater freedoms for slimline ‘monopole’ masts up to 15 metres in height, which are less visually intrusive than standard masts and used for 5G rollout, in unprotected areas. This could mean operators notifying local authorities of their intention to proceed without needing prior approval. This would align it with current rights that telecoms operators have for telegraph poles. DCMS will also lead on a new code of practice for mobile network operators.

Speaking on behalf of the trade association for the UK’s mobile network operators, Mobile UK, director Hamish MacLeod said: “We welcome the proposals set out in this consultation which will provide better certainty and flexibility to technological changes required to build world-class mobile networks. We urge the Government that to assist mobile companies it brings about legislative change as quickly as possible.”