Government urged to relax mobile planning laws to aid post-Covid recovery

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Industry body Mobile UK has once again called for the elimination of barriers mobile infrastructure construction, arguing that improved coverage will be essential for the post-coronavirus economic recovery.

The organisation, which represents the major mobile operators, has frequently campaigned on behalf of its members for the reduction of red tape and greater access to sites.

It argues that these barriers increase the expense and time required to build out networks that can support British consumers and businesses who are increasingly reliant on mobile communications due to the pandemic.

Mobile coverage

“It is therefore all the more important that changes that will break down barriers to building the necessary 4G and 5G infrastructure are brought forward. In particular, planning proposals must be translated into legislative change this year, so that the economic recovery from Covid can be supported by world-class digital infrastructure.”

Research conducted with the British Chambers of Commerce found 59 per cent of businesses believe better coverage will help restart or maintain their operations, with many turning to online collaboration tools and flexible working structures. Four fifths of organisations plan to increase or maintain their use of mobile networks over the next year with just four per cent reporting a decrease.

Mobile UK and BCC say this is evidence that enhanced capacity and speeds will help businesses  adapt to the new normal. Equally important, they argue, is to ensure that rural areas receive as much attention as urban locations.

“A reliable mobile phone signal is a basic requirement for any business. It has become even more critical since the coronavirus pandemic,” said BCC Co-Executive Director Claire Walker.

“With a majority of firms expecting to continue working from home for the foreseeable future, and fewer employees commuting to city centres, it will be critical to accelerate solutions to improving areas with partial or no coverage to ensure that no business is left behind.

The £1 billion Shared Rural Network (SRN), which provides a framework for operators to share infrastructure in hard to reach locations, has been welcomed. But long-standing calls for reform to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) have been reiterated.

“The BCC’S Covid-19 tracker has clearly shown that changes to business practices, the so called new normal, are not simply a flash in the pan and increased mobile network usage is set to continue,” said Gareth Elliot, Mobile UK head of policy and communications.

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.