The UK Government has announced plans to boost 5G connectivity to rural areas across Britain.
Westminster says that the proposed laws will effectively “wipe out” rural mobile ‘not spots’ and speed up the rollout of 5G technology, whilst maintaining a positive impact on the local environment.
Proposed reforms would “remove one of the biggest barriers to better coverage in the countryside,” according to a UK Government statement, and reduce build time and costs for new infrastructure.
Changes would allow mobile firms like Vodafone and BT to build new and existing masts up to five metres taller and two metres wider than UK rules currently allow.
The Government says this will not only increase the range of masts but also allow operators to fit more equipment on them so they can be more easily shared.
“Stricter rules will apply in protected areas, including national parks, the Broads, conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites,” the government statement reads.
Commenting on the new rules, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We want to level up the country and end the plague of patchy and poor mobile signals in rural communities.
“Today we are setting out plans to make it easier for mobile firms to transform connectivity in the countryside and propel villages and towns out of the digital dark ages – providing a welcome boost for millions of families, businesses and visitors.
“These practical changes strike a careful balance between removing unnecessary barriers holding back better coverage while making sure we protect our precious landscape.”
One reason behind the new rules is that it will incentivise mobile firms to focus on improving existing masts over building new ones, meaning fewer new masts would be required for rural communities to gain access to 5G connectivity.
The new rules will supposedly turbocharge the Government’s announced Shared Rural Network, valued at £1 billion and being built to eliminate 4G mobile ‘not spots’ in rural zones.
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Despite the new rules focusing primarily on England, Scotland is also accelerating the rollout of 5G networks and combatting connectivity issues in rural areas.
It was announced in March that a consortium of organisations will work together to make the case for better connectivity in the country’s remote and rural areas.
The Scottish Government provided funding to CENSIS, The Scotland 5G Centre, and the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre (DHI) to develop an economic model that could “redefine the assessments behind infrastructure deployment,” prioritising the “potential value to communities over cost”.
Commenting on the new model, George Crooks OBE, CEO of DHI, said: “This project will demonstrate how the evolution in telecommunications technologies can be best leveraged in support of securing community resilience.
“Supporting people to make better health and wellbeing choices, allowing the provision of safe, effective and responsive healthcare through the use of next-generation digital solutions in rural areas is a priority across Scotland which can be successfully delivered.
“The project will also seek to identify how this type of infrastructure investment can be utilised to create economic opportunities for these communities and so creating wider benefits. The three Innovation Centres working together, contributing their specialist knowledge and expertise, will demonstrate the true value add that innovation can bring to the lives of individual people and the communities where they live.”