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Guto Bebb MP Calls for Better Mobile Network Coverage in Wales

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 (2:30 am) - Score 337

The UK Government’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales, Guto Bebb MP, has warned that Welsh homes and businesses risk being “left behind” by poor mobile (3G, 4G) network coverage if the industry doesn’t work together on a solution.

In keeping with that the MP for Aberconwy has setup an early autumn conference, which will bring together Ofcom, Mobile Network Operators (O2, EE (BT), Three UK and Vodafone), farming unions, business groups, local authorities and landowners as part of a new drive to tackle the issue.

At least one of the changes on the table is a plan to mirror the recent tweak in England, which relaxed the rules so that mobile operators could build masts up to 25 metres tall without needing planning permission (the current rule for Wales is still 15m). “It is absolutely right that communities are consulted about the impact of masts, but the lack of coverage needs to be addressed if Wales is to get the best possible mobile coverage,” said Guto.

Guto Bebb MP said:

“I don’t need surveys to understand the need for decent mobile connectivity right across Wales. It is vital for small and medium size companies and home-based enterprises to develop and grow their business in the rural Welsh economy. And I absolutely recognise that we are not quite there yet, but we are continuing to take steps to improve it.

We need to ensure Wales is not left behind. We now rightfully expect our mobile devices to work reliably wherever we are, be it at home, at work, in a car, or in the fields of Powys.”

Guto hopes to ensure that operators “find it at least as easy as England to invest,” which is a fairly low bar to set. On top of that one of the biggest issues stem from the problem of gaining affordable access to install new infrastructure on private land.

Some of these challenges are being addressed by a major update to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), but private land owners are bitterly opposed to that (here). No doubt Guto will learn about some of these challenges for himself in the autumn.

At the end of last year Ofcom revealed that 84% of premises in Wales could access a 2G mobile service, while 67% could get 3G and only 20% were able to benefit from the latest 4G networks. No doubt this has improved a lot since then, but there’s still plenty of work left to do.

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