28.05.2021 NEWS

The plan to roll out 5G in rural communities

On 20th April 2021, the UK government has today outlined plans to drastically improve mobile connectivity in rural areas across the country. The government is to allow taller and wider mobile phone masts to be built across the English countryside to speed up the 5G network rollout.

Masts on public land have been limited to 20m (66ft) tall, but new masts can be up to 30m, and existing ones 25m. Mobile networks will need permission from local councils to build new masts. Stricter rules will apply in protected areas, including national parks, conservation areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty. In many cases, people are opposed to mobile phone masts because of their appearance. However, on the flip side, many are crying out for better mobile signal in their towns and villages.

In these new plans, the government hopes to eliminate mobile signal blind spots, while also speeding up the rollout of 5G. In a statement, the UK government revealed a number of proposals for mobile companies to utilise in order to benefit rural communities. This includes the major network operators being able to make new and existing masts up to five meters taller and two meters wider than current proposals.

These changes will help aid the £1bn Shared Rural Network investment that the government has put into developing 4G in rural areas. This investment again seeks to eliminate 4G mobile ‘not spots’ in the countryside. Commenting on the updated proposals Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We want to level up the country and end the plague of patchy and poor mobile signals in rural communities. 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.”
Stricter rules are set to apply in protected areas such as national parks, while plans also include proposals to improve mobile coverage on the UK’s roads.

5G Rollout

5G uses higher frequency waves so more devices can be connected to it and have faster internet speeds. However, they require more transmitter masts to enable the technology. Mobile networks will be “incentivised” to focus on improving existing masts rather than building new ones. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “These practical changes strike a careful balance between removing unnecessary barriers holding back better coverage, while making sure we protect our precious landscape.”

The Commitment to Coverage

The government has committed to extending 4G coverage to 95% of the UK – regardless of which network customers use – by 2025.
Leading mobile operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone will share network equipment and build new masts as part of the scheme.
Mobile UK, which represents the four networks, welcomed the proposals and said the legislative changes should be brought “as quickly as possible” to ensure “ambitious targets” were met.

The proposals include:

• Existing mobile masts to be strengthened without prior approval, so that they can be upgraded for 5G
• In unprotected areas, mast increases can be up to a maximum of 25m (previously 20m)
• Greater height increases will also be permitted, subject to approval by the local authority
• New masts can be built up to five metres higher – a maximum of 30m in unprotected areas and 25m in protected areas, subject to approval by the planning authority

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