Press release

Speeding up mobile broadband roll-out

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Essential to creating jobs, growing our economy, and a key part of ensuring that Britain wins the global race.

Moves to boost the roll-out of mobile broadband, which is essential to business growth and jobs, have been published today (3 May 2013) for consultation by the government.

Demand for mobile broadband - including 4G - among consumers and business is high and growing. Currently, 92% of individuals in the UK have a mobile phone and 39% of individuals own a smart phone with internet access. It is estimated the demand for mobile capacity will increase 80 fold by 2030, but regulations are holding up the roll-out of services in many parts of the country.

The proposed changes will speed up the regulatory process for mobile broadband infrastructure, while ensuring protected areas and others keep environmental safeguards already in place. The plans ensure the use and sharing of existing infrastructure is maximised, and installing new masts is avoided wherever possible.

The key proposals will:

  • clarify existing permitted development rights to remove ambiguity
  • ensure that the appropriate safeguards remain firmly in place for protected areas
  • amend the rules on masts on buildings to enable mobile operators to install antenna further back from the edge of a building; this will improve the visual appearance from the ground
  • make it easier to allow the wall mounting of antenna, maximising the use of existing buildings/structures and minimising the number of new ground-based masts
  • facilitate the use of small wall-mounted “microcell” antenna, which offer a fast way to add network capacity with minimal visual impact
  • encourage the sharing of masts, to avoid the need for every network operator to erect their own mast

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said:

Broadband is essential for driving economic growth and we are transforming broadband in the UK by tripling speeds and getting 10 million more homes and business online. We know that broadband is a key plank of business infrastructure and essential to creating jobs.

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.

Planning Minister Nick Boles said:

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.

More than £1 billion of public money is being invested, including £150 million specifically in mobile, to transform broadband in this country. Speeds will be dramatically higher and superfast fixed and mobile broadband will be widespread, with 10 million more homes and business connected. This will reinforce the UK’s position as a leading digital economy and will be a major driver of local jobs and national growth.

Huge progress on broadband has been made already, with average speeds having more than doubled in the past 2 years, and 100,000 more homes and businesses getting superfast broadband every week.

The auction of 4G spectrum, completed earlier this year, raised £2.34 billion, and the use of the spectrum is expected to be worth more than £50 billion to the UK economy. And the spectrum required to deliver 4G services will be cleared six months ahead of schedule.

Notes to editors

  1. The proposals are set out in a joint consultation from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

  2. The consultation document, Mobile connectivity in England, can be seen on GOV.UK.

  3. The 6 week consultation begins today and ends on 14 June 2013. Responses should be sent to mobilecom@communities.gsi.gov.uk.

  4. The proposals in this consultation have been informed following discussions with the Mobile Operators Association, the Local Government Association and the Planning Officers Society.

  5. Under permitted development, planning permission is already granted. Many of the changes proposed have permitted development: subject to prior approval (siting and design). The application is submitted to the local planning authority for consultation with the local community on the placement and design of equipment whilst ensuring that a decision is reached within the statutory time (56 days).

  6. Best practice on the siting, design and consultation on the deployment of mobile infrastructure is set out in the Code of Best Practice on Mobile Development; published in 2002. It will be updated to reflect lessons learned and the significant changes in technology over the last 10 years. We will work with sector partners to ensure that the new code is in place before any regulatory changes following this consultation are put into effect.

  7. 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. The updated code will cover sympathetic siting and the principles of engagement by mobile operators with communities and local planning authorities.

Media enquiries

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Email pressoffice@culture.gsi.gov.uk

News desk 020 7211 2210

Department for Communities and Local Government

Email press.office@communities.gsi.gov.uk

News desk 0303 444 1201