Greater freedoms to build 5G masts in new sites and of different sizes under consideration. The UK government has also published the report by the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce.
The UK government is consulting on changes to the law, which it says will boost ongoing efforts to improve connectivity in rural areas. The proposed reforms aim to remove one of the biggest barriers to better coverage in the countryside by 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 taller and wider than current rules permit. This will increase the range of masts and allow operators to fit more equipment on them so they can be more easily shared. The government says that this will eliminate 4G mobile ‘not spots’ in the countryside and speed up rollout of next-generation 5G networks.
The aim is to provide incentives for mobile firms to focus on improving existing masts over building new ones, with fewer new masts needed for rural communities to receive a better signal now and to take full advantage of future 5G-connected technology. This includes innovations in remote healthcare, self-driving vehicles and smart devices such as fridges, TVs and heating systems. The plans also include proposals for better mobile coverage for road users by allowing building-based masts to be placed nearer to highways. However, the government says that stricter rules will apply in protected areas, including national parks, the Broads, conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites.
The consultation intends reforms to permitted development rights in England:
The DCMS also plans a new code of practice for mobile network operators. It says that this will provide updated guidance on how operators and local authorities can work together to build communications infrastructure the country needs. It will also contain best practice for the siting of new infrastructure, particularly in protected areas, and ensuring stakeholders are properly consulted.
The consultation ends on 14 June 2021.
Telecoms Diversification Taskforce report
In addition to the consultation, the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce has set out its recommendations on how to reduce the UK’s reliance on a small number of equipment vendors in the telecoms supply chain. The Telecoms Diversification Taskforce was set up by the government to provide independent advice on how to boost competition and innovation in the UK telecoms market and build an open, sustainable and diverse supply chain. It follows the government’s decision to remove Huawei equipment from UK 5G networks by 2027. Although the government says that this is necessary to protect national security, it means the UK will rely on only two other 5G equipment suppliers: Nokia and Ericsson. The Taskforce recommends the following:
The government says that it will study the findings and respond fully in due course.