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England Hopes to Boost 4G Mobile Rollout via New Planning Consultation

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 (7:57 am) - Score 715

The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has launched a new Technical Consultation that is designed to “boost the roll-out” of new 4G (LTE) based Mobile Broadband services in England by softening the existing planning regulations to allow for easier building of new masts and antennas.

The Mobile Connectivity in England (PDF) consultation is somewhat of an separate compliment to the recently passed Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 (GIA), which after some heated debates ended up focusing almost exclusively on fixed line infrastructure (e.g. BT’s street cabinets).

As a result the changes set out in this consultation are not reliant on Clause 9 of the GIA, which affords the government enabling powers to implement changes for fixed (not mobile) communications infrastructure (i.e. prior approval on mast/antenna siting and design will be “retained for all permitted development in protected areas“).

Ed Vaizey, Communications Minister, said:

Broadband is essential for driving economic growth and we are transforming broadband in the UK by tripling speeds and getting 10 million more homes and business online. We know that broadband is a key plank of business infrastructure and essential to creating jobs.

Demand for mobile broadband in particular is increasing at a phenomenal rate. We need to ensure that businesses and individuals can access this as soon as possible, if its full potential as driver for growth is to be realised.”

Mobile Connectivity in England – Key Proposals

* Clarify existing permitted development rights to remove ambiguity.
* Ensure that the appropriate safeguards remain firmly in place for protected areas.
* Amend the rules on masts on buildings to enable mobile operators to install antenna further back from the edge of a building; this will improve the visual appearance from the ground.
* Make it easier to allow the wall mounting of antenna, maximising the use of existing buildings/structures and minimising the number of new ground-based masts.
* Facilitate the use of small wall-mounted “microcell” antenna, which offer a fast way to add network capacity with minimal visual impact.
* Encourage the sharing of masts, to avoid the need for every network operator to erect their own mast.

The changes, if approved, would support the government’s £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) to help “at least” 98% of UK people gain access to a Mobile Broadband (3G or 4G) service by the end of 2017. But Ed Vaizey recently confirmed that he expected the 4G roll-out to reach this target “two years ahead of schedule” (i.e. by the end of 2015).

The consultation will remain open until 14th June 2013.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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