The new Secretary of State for Wales is today (Wednesday March 23) meeting the UK’s major mobile phone operators in a bid to tackle patchy phone reception in rural areas.
Alun Cairns has also called on the Welsh Government to consider new powers – announced in the Budget – which will allow the construction of taller masts in England to boost coverage in difficult-to-reach spots.
Those attending the meeting at the Wales Office include executives from MobileUK; Three; O2; EE and Vodafone.
The agenda will cover mobile phone coverage in rural areas and how to tackle the prevalence of “not spots” – areas with absolutely no reception – in parts of Wales, particularly the north.
While mobile operators are continuing to roll out their networks in Wales, there are still an estimated 4 per cent of households/businesses in Wales which can’t get voice coverage from any of the major operators. This is twice the UK rate..
Mr Cairns said he was keen to see the Welsh Government emulate measures announced in the Budget which allow the construction of phone masts up to 25 metres tall – 10 metres more than currently allowed – without planning permission across England.
The Secretary of State for Wales said:
While I appreciate the success of progress so far and scale of challenge around improving mobile connections in Wales, there remain areas in rural parts of Wales that have no network coverage.
The UK Government used the Budget to announce greater freedoms and flexibilities for the deployment of mobile infrastructure – I’d like to see the Welsh Government consider something similar.
It is absolutely right that communities are consulted about the impact of masts. But if we want better coverage in hard-to-access areas then we need to encourage the operators to invest in their networks for better voice and data services.
The mobile phone summit will also look at a trial collaboration in the Scottish Highlands between EE and Facebook which will provide 4G connection to villages, and will ask whether similar innovative technologies could be deployed in Wales.