Taller masts urged for rural areas to support 5G networks

In a bid to speed up the roll-out of 5G networks across the UK, and in particular in the countryside, the government has proposed an overhaul of planning rules in England to install bigger and taller mobile phone masts without the need for councils’ permission.

At present, phone masts on public land can be no more than 25 metres tall, but ministers are looking to relax the rules so as to support bigger towers and thus more coverage, especially to rural locations.

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said: "This is about broader digital connectivity. So we will obviously look to the mobile companies and those installing those infrastructures to see what it is they actually need.

“And the point is there has to be a balance struck. We all want better phone signal. We all want to be able to download things much more quickly so we have to have the infrastructure there.

“We have to make sure it's done in a sensitive way, it respects certain areas of outstanding natural beauty."

Members of the Labour Party have said that plans need to be “bolder” to boost the country’s digital infrastructure, and that taller masts would support coverage and expansion by being able to support more equipment and “stop the proliferation of other masts – or even take away some.”

Talks of altering existing rules come as a result of the government launching its Rural Connected Communities competition, through which up to 10 rural areas will be awarded a share of £30 million to set up and run trials of 5G technology and boost the local economy.

Hamish MacLeod, the director of Mobile UK trade association, remarked: “We welcome the government looking at simplifying planning processes to deliver better connectivity, and we stand ready to work in partnership to ensure these much-needed reforms happen as quickly as possible.”