The Church of England (COfE) is reportedly close to agreeing a partnership with a mobile infrastructure firm which would allow mobile equipment to be added to church spires to improve rural coverage.
The height of church spires and the fact that two thirds of churches are in areas with poor connectivity were the driving factors behind a deal agreed with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) last year.
As part of that arrangement, it is up to individual churches to investigate how their properties can be best used to serve the local community and to reach agreements with mobile operators. However mobile operators have said that churches have been too keen to monetise their spires rather than strike a deal.
The CofE has confirmed it is conversations with potential third parties to assist parishes in this process, but no agreement is in place. According to the Financial Times, authorities are in talks with Goldman Sachs-controlled Shared Access, which already has 50,000 sites across the UK.
“The Church of England centrally does not negotiate contracts for installing phone masts - this falls to the Parochial Church Council (the governing body of a parish) which usually comprises the vicar and volunteer members representing the local community,” a CofE spokesperson told TechRadar Pro.
“A working group within the Church of England is currently tasked with drafting guidance for use by parishes, dioceses and companies to facilitate the provision of connectivity in churches and rural areas. Conversations with sector specialists are ongoing, although no agreements are yet in place to provide services to support parishes.”
Mobile operators have frequently complained about the difficulty in gaining access to sites and that local authorities seem to be preoccupied with the short term value of street furniture and public infrastructure rather than the long term value that enhanced connectivity might provide.
“It’s mind boggling when you go to underserved areas and the planning permission gets rejected,” Kyle Prigg, head of networks at Vodafone UK, told journalists earlier this month.
- Check out the best mobile deals for June 2018!
Are you a pro? Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up to the TechRadar Pro newsletter to get all the top news, opinion, features and guidance your business needs to succeed!
Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.