5G competition and changes to mobile mast rules under consultation
It feels a little like we have been reading about planning changes for mobile masts for a long time and still plenty of people seem to enjoy the moans about not having reception, so just maybe this latest planning rule change for mobile masts might eventually fix more of the not spots.
Four different documents have appeared on the DCMS website relating to 5G and mobile broadband on 27th August
The proposal to change the permitted rights on mobile mast deployments will probably be equally welcomed with equal measures of pleasure and pain. The proposals centre around allowing for taller masts, wider masts to help support more radio devices on the same site (important for 5G as the different frequency bands will need new antenna). Also changes to allow extra ground based hardware to be added to sites without the need for prior approval, plus making it easier to install masts on buildings near highways.
Taller masts than 25 metres are already possible but the full planning process has to be gone through, which is expensive in terms of time and legal costs. So the plan is to allow taller masts under the permitted rights scheme and therefore the consultation running so that feedback can be gathered. Taller masts will be more visible but the bonus is that you can cover a wide area from the same single mast and would benefit both 4G and 5G, assuming that 4G radio kit is placed higher than it is today.
The big change in coverage is likely to come once the 700 MHz band is switched on and people own devices that can make use of the 5G networks, though we do need to remind everyone that the lower frequency radio bands will not support the same sort of speeds that is driving the excitement behind 5G.
The £30 million competition is both interesting and not interesting, interesting as in seeing what it will be used for, but not interesting as its unlikely that anyone with an existing mobile handset will benefit directly. The hope from the rural 5G competition is that ten projects will be backed delivering innovative use of 5G and that in time this will stimulate commercial roll-outs in rural areas at which point the average mobile handset if it supports 5G will benefit. What counts as innovative, well existing examples of targeted crop-spraying and soil analysis with drones and tractors along with monitoring salmon fisheries and improve efficiency of wind farms.
Part of the criteria is that projects will be expected to show that there will be societal and economic benefits to the project and before applying the projects are expected to be funded for only two years, so if this is an exciting innovation for a business you need to consider how sustainable it is after two years. Past experience with some broadband trials where things vanished once competition funding ended is why we are mentioning this.
The competition closes at midday on 25th October 2019 with an earlier deadline of 27th September for those asking questions prior to submitting their full entry.