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Improved 5G mobile signal on the way for rural areas

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Written by: Emma Lunn
20/04/2021
The government plans to bring in new rules which will speed up the rollout of next generation 5G technology by eliminating mobile signal blindspots in rural areas and on roads.

Mobile signal ‘not spots’ could be wiped out by 30m masts in the countryside which will improve the 5G signal for rural communities.

The government says the reforms will 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 up to five metres taller and two metres 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 move will 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. It will also enable people who live in rural areas to take full advantage of future 5G-connected technology such as remote healthcare, self-driving vehicles and smart devices such as fridges, TVs and heating systems.

Stricter rules will apply in protected areas, including national parks, 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 roads. 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.

But the proposals also include greater freedoms for slimline ‘monopole’ masts up to 15 metres in height, which are less visually intrusive than standard masts, in unprotected areas. This could mean operators notifying local authorities of their intention to proceed without needing prior approval.

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. Today 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.

“These practical changes strike a careful balance between removing unnecessary barriers holding back better coverage, while making sure we protect our precious landscape.”

The government consultation on the new mast rules starts today and will run for eight weeks, closing on 14 June 2021.

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