Two central government departments have joined forces for a consultation into accelerating the roll-out of mobile broadband across the UK.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Communities outlined proposals to speed up the regulatory process companies must go through before deploying any infrastructure in public places, but pledged to keep environmental safeguards firmly in place.
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“We know that broadband is a key plank of business infrastructure and essential to creating jobs,” said Ed Vaizey, the minister for culture, communications and the creative industries. “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.”
The proposals came from discussions between Whitehall and the mobile operators association, the local government association and the planning officers society.
They include changing the rules on installing masts on buildings – such as moving antenna further back from the edge of buildings to improve aesthetics - and making it easier to deploy wall mounted antenna in the hope of preventing the need for more ground-based masts.
The departments want to encourage the use of microcells for adding network capacity and the sharing of masts between mobile operators.
The minister for planning at the Department for Communities, Nick Boles, added: "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."
The consultation will last six weeks – ending on 14 June 2013 – and the departments hope the outcome will lead to an update to 2002’s Code of Best Practice on Mobile Development, before moving on to putting official regulatory measures in place.
“For the code to be effective it should be developed and owned by industry, local authority groups and other interested parties including those representing both non-protected and protected areas,” concluded a joint statement from the DCMS and Department for Communities.
“The updated code will cover sympathetic siting and the principles of engagement by mobile operators with communities and local planning authorities.”