Mobile phone users are expected to see a faster and more reliable mobile signal as the government announced a change in the Planning Act to roll out better 4G and next-generation 5G coverage.
As part of the government’s plan to improve 4G and 5G mobile coverage, it has changed planning laws that will allow telecom companies to upgrade existing infrastructure, reducing the need for new phone masts.
Companies will be allowed to make new and existing masts up to five meters higher and two meters wider than current rules allow. This means that existing masts can be a maximum height of 25m in unprotected areas, while new masts can be a maximum of 30m in unprotected areas and 25m in protected areas, subject to approval of the local authority.
By increasing the width and height of the masts, this will increase their reach and allow operators to install more equipment on them so they can be more easily shared.
It should also mean better coverage for road users, allowing building-based masts to be placed closer to highways.
In addition, “strict new legal obligations” will be imposed on operators to “minimize the visual impact of network equipment”, particularly in protected areas such as national parks, conservation areas, world heritage sites and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: “We’ve all felt the frustration of having the ‘blues without a bar’ when we’re struggling to get a phone signal, so we’re changing the law to eliminate the ” mobile spots and dial accelerate the deployment of next-generation 5G.
“Telephone users across the country will benefit – whether they’re in a city, town or on the road – and stricter rules on the visual impact of new infrastructure will ensure our beloved countryside is protected.”
The planning reforms of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 apply only to England, as planning is a matter of devolved policy. The government intends to introduce the changes through secondary legislation “as soon as parliamentary time permits” after first proposing them in April 2021.