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Mobile Operators Seek More Engagement with UK Councils

Wednesday, Aug 24th, 2022 (12:35 pm) - Score 1,824

The Mobile UK trade body, which represents Three UK, EE (BT), O2 (VMO2) and Vodafone, has published a new report that highlight how mobile connectivity can help councils overcome the challenges of delivering adult social care. But it’s also pushing for rates relief and easier planning approvals on new masts etc.

At present, all of the major mobile operators are busy investing billions of pounds to deploy ultrafast 5G based mobile broadband networks across the country (EE and Three UK have already gone beyond 50% UK population coverage). Furthermore, the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) project is also aiming to extend UK geographic 4G mobile coverage to 95% by the end of 2025.

However, it’s fair to say that mobile operators often run into a fair bit of local opposition, such as when trying to build a new mast or upgrade existing infrastructure. As such, it’s no surprise to find that today’s new ‘Connected Care‘ report, which attempts to highlight the challenges councils face in delivering social care and how mobile connectivity can help, ultimately ends up making recommendations aimed at boosting the wider rollout of related infrastructure.

Report Recommendations to UK Councils:

➤ Put infrastructure at the heart of all Local Development Plans to reference the importance of mobile infrastructure to economic development and social inclusion.

➤ Appoint a Digital Champion, who can focus squarely on delivering connectivity and digital adoption, but also sell the benefits and opportunities of digital investment. Research suggests that councils that have appointed Digital Champions have had significant success in speeding up rollout and improving relationships with telecommunication companies. Mobile UK’s own research has found that planning approval rates also tend to be higher where councils have put in place Digital Champions or schemes to promote mobile connectivity.

➤ Continue promotion of full-fibre deployment to facilitate mobile and 5G rollout.

➤ Support with the transition to adopting digital applications in adult and social care.

➤ All public bodies, not just local authorities, to make available their assets for siting mobile apparatus on Electronic Communication Code Terms.

➤ Introduction of business rates relief for new mobile infrastructure development, especially in harder-to-reach areas.

As for the social care aspects of the report, it’s all summarised at a very high level and with plenty of generalisations and optimistic predictions, which may or may not reflect the reality of improving mobile connectivity in such settings. But you don’t always strictly need 5G to do a lot of the things that the report talks about (e.g. remote consultation / diagnosis).

However, the final recommendations do suggest that this is really just another way of trying to soften the stance that some local authorities take toward the deployment of new mobile infrastructure, where planning authorities can be quite obstructive – sometimes this is justified, but other times it isn’t.

Hamish MacLeod, CEO of Mobile UK, said:

“With the pressure on councils more pronounced than ever and social care one of the biggest challenges they face it is important that the role of digital connectivity and the opportunities it offers are better understood.

Our report highlights many of these opportunities both to the council and those in need, calling for mobile connectivity to be more heavily integrated into council policy and planning.”

Local authorities will no doubt find some interesting ideas in the new report, although we suspect it will take more than this to change the minds of some councils.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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9 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Peter Gradwell says:

    I think you could have switched the headline round and published this in newsthump. I think many councils will tell you they spend their lifetimes waiting for mnos to actually engage. And Liverpool is so far ahead of the mnos they delivered their own 5G network because the big operators couldn’t achieve the desired sla!

    1. Avatar photo Guest says:

      Yes using mmwave which isn’t available to most 5G device users anyway.

      In fact Apple have stated they don’t see much take up of the technology outside the US.

      Pushing the emphasis onto the councils for approving infrastructure applications is one thing but as I understand it, the operators could do more and get brownie points with the local council by installing 5G infrastructure at every public transport interface eg bus stops, taxi ranks, railway stations, London Underground etc all to both push use of public transport but also to improve coverage of 5G.

      In any case, its about time the councils are more proactive and do more to work with the 4 mobile providers to push both 4G and 5G infrastructure.

  2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    And there should be controls for planning around masts.

    Sometimes this can be ugly as not blended into environment, and nobody likes a mast right next to their house or enforced onto their land while the operators make money but get the land for a pittance despite the person losing money on their own business (like a farmer) or enjoyment of the land. I can’t recall any operator giving me their service for a pittance 🙂

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      More control. Goodness Stroud council rejects a good proportion, some villages and small towns have had planning rejected for many years, not proactive at all, the Nimby is winning here, still it’s all about fighting and stopping a Starbucks being built in tha area at the moment.

    2. Avatar photo Anuraj says:

      Agreed but people still mourning they need 5g or decent 4g. Three uk have applied to build many mast around villages and towns and let down by councils.

      I understand people don’t like mast outside of their houses. Mast location decided by number of factors e.g Fibre connection, tall landscaping.

      Operators can’t afford to place mast in park or open place where no one gets benefits.

      For 5g coverage operators need at least 20 meters but they cut down to 15meters and still rejected by council and public.

  3. Avatar photo james smith says:

    if people don’t want fast 5g then lets bring back 48k dial up for a suitable price

    1. Avatar photo Guest says:

      Just give them a very long string and two cans, sorted!

  4. Avatar photo John Thomas says:

    In Scotland planning controls on mobile towers appear to be almost non-existent.

    A couple of years ago, a network decided the village needed a new giant mast. The first the community knew about it was when the temporary traffic lights started blocking the road.

    We get the opportunity to comment on other developments, sometimes changing elements to work better for the community or getting serious blights stopped. Not for mobile towers.

  5. Avatar photo AAA says:

    The UK is backward. Digital champions lol Govt/ councils need to cut the crap AKA bureaucracy & stop holding back progress. The network planners also need to start hiring people with common sense.

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