UK government wants to kill off mobile signal blackspots for good

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The UK government has announced plans to help end the scourge of mobile signal "blackspots" across the country.

The reforms will mean that rural areas should see a significant improvement in terms of mobile signal, with the nationwide 5G rollout also greatly accelerated.

Also included in the reforms is a bid to boost signal on the UK's roads, removing a major pain point for users across the nation, and possibly meaning an end to getting lost on winding country roads for good.

Bye bye mobile blackspots

The plans, unveiled by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will also mean that fewer phone masts should be needed in order to provide this signal boost. New planning laws will allow mobile network operators to make new and existing phone masts up to five metres taller and two metres wider than current rules permit. 

The DCMS says this will boost the range of masts, create room for the extra equipment needed for faster networks and make it easier for operators to share infrastructure. Building-based masts will also be able to be placed nearer to highways in order to boost coverage on roads in case of breakdowns or simply getting lost.

However, this move will not lead to unsightly giant masts spoiling the views of the countryside, as the government also announced tough new legal duties on operators to minimise 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. 

The moves are still in the planning stage for now, but the DCMS says it hopes to bring them into force as soon as possible.

“We’ve all felt the frustration of having the ‘no bar blues’ when struggling to get a phone signal, so we’re changing the law to wipe out mobile ‘not spots’ and dial up the roll out of next-generation 5G," said Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez.

“Phone users across the country will benefit - whether they are in a city, village or on the road - and tighter rules on the visual impact of new infrastructure will ensure our cherished countryside is protected.”

The news is part of the government's Shared Rural Network initiative, which hopes to spend over £1 billion in helping "level up" the country's mobile infrastructure. Among the other goals of the plan are nationwide 4G coverage by 2030, and 5G coverage to most of the UK population by the same date.

The UK also plans to switch off its 2G and 3G networks by 2033 as part of plans to promote the development and rollout of 5G services and to diversify the telecommunications supply chain.

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.