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Another Blow for the UK Gov’s Mobile Coverage Plans – No Tall Masts

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 (11:44 am) - Score 1,887

The Government’s agreement with mobile operators (i.e. Three UK, O2, EE and Vodafone) to extend the geographic coverage of 2G (voice and text) networks from 80% today to 90% by 2017 (the target for 3G and 4G is 85%) appears to have suffered another blow after operators were warned that they might not be allowed to build taller masts.

The big mobile providers had, among other things, been hoping that the deal they agreed last year (here) would result in more planning / infrastructure deployment flexibility, a reduction in some of the planned radio spectrum licence fee hikes and cheaper access to private land.

But so far Ofcom hasn’t appeared willing to make a massive reduction to the planned spectrum hike (here) and land owners have been fiercely resistant to having their income from land access reduced to the level required for utility firms like electricity and water (here and here). However one of these two will need to give way and right now the land owners look more likely to suffer.

According to The Telegraph, mobile operators now have another problem because their calls for more flexible planning rules in order to support the building of taller masts (these are able to cover a wider area) seems likely to fall on deaf ears due to a bout of NIMBY-ism. The current limit is 15 metres, but other countries allow for double that height.

An EE Spokesman said:

This would undermine the Government’s own ambition for broader rural coverage and is out of step with modern consumer and business attitudes.”

The case for refusing taller masts is understandable, albeit more so in areas of outstanding natural beauty. But operators argue that it is both more visually attractive and cheaper to deploy a single big mast then to have lots of smaller ones dotted all over the place. The fun continues.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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