Mobile operators and landowners pledge co-operation on rural coverage

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Landowners and mobile operators have reaffirmed their commitment to work together to improve coverage in rural areas despite a lack of progress in negotiations.

Operators have long complained about the difficulty in gaining access to sites and the ‘unfair’ demands made by landowners in exchange for building or upgrading telecoms infrastructure.

Reforms to the Electronic Communications implemented in December 2017 removed a number of barriers to deployment while also ensuring that landowners received a fair price for the use of their land. However, all parties have admitted there have been problems with talks.

Rural mobile coverage

But in a joint-statement between Mobile UK (the mobile network trade body that represents EE, O2, Three and Vodafone), the government, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said it recognised the importance of working together.

The government has ambitions to be a 5G leader and recently outlined a proposed package of legislation that would boost fixed and mobile connectivity across the UK. EE is aiming for 95 per cent 4G landmass coverage by the end of the decade, while it is expected that spectrum licences for the 700MHz band will include coverage obligations.

Meanwhile, rural organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of enhanced connectivity to everyday life, with one recent report from the Local Government Association even stating a lack of superfast mobile and broadband coverage was a threat to rural prosperity.

“Achieving the Government’s ambition of becoming a leading digital economy relies on boosting coverage and capacity, which can only be achieved if landowners work together with the telecoms sector as per the reformed Electronic Communications Code and the OFCOM Code of Practice,” declared Hamish MacLeod, Director of Mobile UK.

“Improving mobile phone coverage across the countryside has clear benefits to rural businesses, consumers and mobile operators. It is only by working together that the most meaningful improvements will be delivered,” added Mark Bridgeman, CLA Deputy President.