Pledge to speed up mobile coverage

The government has pledged to speed up the rollout of faster mobile and broadband services to rural areas.

People in areas with poor mobile coverage would soon get a significant boost to their connections, said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Reforms made to outdated legislation would reduce the costs of housing phone masts and other communications infrastructure on private land, it addded.

Digital minister Matt Hancock said the move would open the way for faster and more reliable broadband and mobile services – particularly in rural areas.

Changes to the UK’s Electronic Communications Code would reduce the rents telecoms operators pay to landowners to install equipment.

They would also make it easier for operators to upgrade and share their equipment with other operators to help increase coverage.

Mr Hancock said: “It’s not good enough that many people are struggling with poor mobile and broadband connections which is why we are improving coverage across the UK.

“We want everyone to benefit from the growth of digital services.

“Removing these outdated restrictions will help promote investment in new technologies such as 5G, and give mobile operators more freedom to improve their networks in hard-to-reach places.”

By the end of the year all mobile operators are required to deliver coverage to 90% of the UK and 95% of all homes and businesses will be able to get superfast broadband.

But the government says more needs to be done.

Mr Hancock said the reforms would help to drive investment and stimulate the continued growth, rollout and maintenance of communication technology infrastructure.

Hamish MacLeod, director of Mobile UK, which represents the UK's mobile network operators, said: “Good mobile connectivity is no longer an optional extra.

“It is essential infrastructure as core to modern economic activity as broadband, electricity and other essential services.”

Mark Talbot, who chairs the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Telecoms Forum Board, said high speed internet was seen as the fourth utility service.

A modern, efficient and equitable digital infrastructure had a critical role on the future development of the UK economy, said Mr Tablot.

RICS had worked closely with the government to ensure the new code balanced the need for investment in digital infrastructure with the needs of the public and private property owners.

“The public and businesses expect access to digital services when they want and as they want, and RICS believes that the reformed code is a great step forward towards this ultimate goal.”

The new code is expected to take effect in December 2017.


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