In an attempt to bolster the UK's 5G rollout and improve coverage in rural areas, mobile phone masts could be erected that don't have to adhere to current height regulations and without council approval.
Big, tall, structures are hot property when it comes to 5G infrastructure, with lamp posts being prime real estate. The proposed plans could see less bickering when it comes to re-purposing existing strictures, with Labour suggesting that the current regulation stipulating that mobile masts on public land not exceed 25m (85ft) be relaxed to facilitate "bolder" plans.
Digital secretary, Nicky Morgan, argues that "slightly taller" masts would allow for more equipment to be tacked onto them, meaning fewer masts might be necessary overall. She didn't rule out the possibility of 5G masts potentially doubling in height, saying the situation should be evaluated based on what the needs of "the people" turn out to be.
"This is about broader digital connectivity. So we will obviously look to the mobile companies and those installing those infrastructures to see what it is they actually need," Morgan said. "And the point is there has to be a balance struck. We all want better phone signal. We all want to be able to download things much more quickly so we have to have the infrastructure there.
"We have to make sure it's done in a sensitive way, it respects certain areas of outstanding natural beauty," she added. Not sure how 50m high masts could fit into that plan, but we'll see how that shakes out.
The 5G rollout would perhaps go a lot smoother if we knew where we stood in relation to Huawei. Health secretary Matt Hancock has previously suggested that the UK needs its own British-based rival before ousting the Chinese company, and last month, digital minister Jeremy Wright basically said we should wait and see how the US ban pans out for the country before rushing to any snap decisions ourselves.
The government has already kicked off a scheme to boost 5G coverage in rural areas called the 5G Rural Connected Communities Project. The competition will see £30m split between a number of eligible rural locations to fund innovative 5G projects.
"This funding falls far short of the ambitious roll-out we need to boost our digital infrastructure nationwide," said Tom Watson, deputy Labour leader. "5G and full fibre will be the basis of the innovative, green technologies that will underpin our future economy, but the UK's digital infrastructure is lagging embarrassingly behind." [BBC News]
Featured image: Buncrana Together