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5G mast rules relaxed to improve rural coverage by making them bigger

Image credit: Dreamstime

Telecoms firms could soon be allowed to make 5G masts wider and taller under proposed rule changes by the government designed to help boost rural coverage.

The reforms will also help to reduce build time and costs for new infrastructure and with each mast able to fit more equipment, it could mean a lower number of towers servicing the same area.

Under the proposals, mobile companies will be allowed to make new and existing masts up to five metres taller and two metres wider than current rules permit.

But stricter rules will apply in protected areas, including national parks, the Broads, conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites. In addition, building based masts could be built closer to roads in order to offer better coverage for drivers.

The government said it hopes the move will “turbocharge” the delivery of the £1bn Shared Rural Network which was created last year to allow operators to share infrastructure in order to eliminate 4G mobile ‘not spots’ in the countryside and speed up rollout of 5G networks.

People living in the UK’s remoter areas, such as farmers, have long suffered from considerably worse coverage than those living in urban areas.

In February, the National Farmers’ Union said the government needed to put more effort into closing the gap in order to help them modernise their business models and tackle climate change.

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.”

The new rules will also allow cabinets containing radio equipment to be deployed alongside masts without prior approval and greater flexibility for installing cabinets in existing compounds to support new 5G networks.

It follows the government’s decision to remove Huawei equipment from UK 5G networks by 2027 over national security reasons which is a setback to telecoms infrastructure rollout plans.

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