The UK government has published new plans for boosting the roll-out of 4G mobile broadband by helping to accelerate the process for operators to install new equipment.
The proposed changes, set out in a joint consultation from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Communities and Local Government, aim to ensure that the use of existing infrastructure is maximised, and the installation of new masts is avoided wherever possible.
The plans will also ensure that environmental safeguards remain in place for protected areas, according to the consultation document.
Specifically, the government plans to 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.
It will also be easier to allow the wall mounting of antenna – maximising the use of existing structures and minimising the number of new ground-based masts required – and facilitate the use of “microcell” antenna, which offer a fast way to add network capacity.
“These proposed technical changes allow the new technology needed for improving mobile coverage and speeds for local residents to be installed in a way that ensures better use is made of existing infrastructure,” said Planning Minister Nick Boles.
The proposals have been informed by discussions with the Mobile Operators Association, the Local Government Association and the Planning Officers Society. There will now be a six-week consultation; all responses must be submitted by 14 June 2013.
More than £1 billion of public money is already being invested to improve the speed and coverage of broadband services, including £150 million specifically in mobile, and the government claims that average speeds have more than doubled in the past 2 years.
“We know that broadband is a key plank of business infrastructure and essential to creating jobs,” said Communications Minister Ed Vaizey.
“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.”