Landowner cooperation crucial to extending rural coverage
-- Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications, Mobile UK – June 2018 --
Building mobile networks is a complex and costly operation, but one where the mobile industry in the UK is investing heavily to deliver. It has a proud record if introducing new technologies and meeting coverage and capacity requirements and will continue to do so in preparing the UK for the next generation of mobile technologies.
The industry cannot do this alone and finding suitable and cost-effective sites to install equipment is critical to the deployment of mobile infrastructure, especially in hard to reach areas. The Government recognised this and reformed the Electronic Communications Code to make sites easier and cheaper to install but this requires the active participation of landowners to work in partnership with operators. Unfortunately, since the Code’s commencement, many landowners have chosen not to engage which could seriously hamper the continued roll-out of mobile networks in rural areas restricting crucial mobile connectivity.
Mobile UK recently submitted evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business to outline the unique challenges of providing coverage in hard to reach areas, but commentary from organisations such as the CLA, which paint a picture of operators failing to invest in rural areas, is disguising the fact that to provide coverage in these areas operators need active participation from landowners. Additionally, the balance of providing mobile connectivity and its value to rural communities and the rents demanded from operators must be fair. Further to this, there are several additional barriers to deployment in which a simplified campaign that attacks the operators fails to recognise. The burden of deployment is not one who sits solely on the shoulders of mobile companies but needs leadership from several stakeholders, including local and national government, third parties and the landowners. Further reform to the planning system, especially for small cells and across the whole of the UK, is essential to enable mobile operators to more easily install equipment, while local authorities need to plan and prioritise mobile as part of their long-term strategic plans. All new development must have connectivity at their very heart.
Mobile UK wholeheartedly rejects the CLA’s assertion that we have abandoned rural communities. Rural coverage has improved massively in recent years, thanks to significant operator investment driven by competition. The mobile networks have worked together to set out a positive vision for what is needed to extend coverage and have been clear on the partnership model for achieving it. The CLA needs to work with operators on this and making ECC reforms effective in improving coverage and service.
About Mobile UK
Mobile UK is the voice of the United Kingdom’s mobile network operators - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.
About Building Mobile Britain
Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.
For further information – www.buildingmobilebritain.org.uk or #BuildingMobileBritain
Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076