Apr 21, 2021

UK Government approves taller masts in rural areas

Harry Menear
2 min
In a bid to combat “not spots”, the UK government has altered legislation to allow for new and existing rural masts to be up to five metres taller
In a bid to combat “not spots”, the UK government has altered legislation to allow for new and existing rural masts to be up to five metres taller...

The UK Government is going ahead with new legislation that will allow mobile phone masts in rural areas to be up to five metres taller and two metres wider, a 20% increase over previous limitations. 

The move has largely been hailed by the country’s telecom sector as a step in the right direction, as it will allow the UK’s four carriers to provide more consistent coverage with fewer towers, and close up glaring “not spots” - areas with poor, spotty coverage - in their networks. 

“We want to level up the country and end the plague of patchy and poor mobile signals in rural communities,” the Conservative Party’s digital secretary, Oliver Dowden, said.

“Today we are setting out plans to make it easier for mobile firms to transform connectivity in the countryside and propel villages and towns out of the digital dark ages – providing a welcome boost for millions of families, businesses and visitors.” 

While masts located in the UK’s national parks (which were previously limited to 20 metres instead of the national cap of 25) will still have to go through a more rigorous planning permission process, concerns have been raised about the impact the infrastructure will have on the UK’s rural spaces. 

CCS Insight analyst Kester Mann said in an interview with the BBC that, “it is vital to strike the right balance between improving connectivity and preserving the beauty of the countryside."

Phil Sorsky, a senior vice president at network infrastructure firm CommScope, called the announcement “that network operators will be able to build taller 5G phone masts in rural areas” a “promising step towards speeding up the 5G network rollout.” 

He admitted, however, that the process of rolling out taller masts would require operators to “aesthetically blend” the equipment “into their environment. For example, integrating technology into a range of slim antennas that are packing more functions into a neat footprint will suit contemporary thinking on urban design and respects the public’s view.”

Sorsky added: “While changes won’t happen overnight, investing in the digital transformation of our country will have long term and far reaching benefits for us all – both economically and socially. Building the infrastructure to supply fast, reliable connectivity to businesses will ultimately underpin our efforts to build back from the pandemic and so this is certainly a positive move from our perspective.”

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Jul 30, 2021

Virgin Media O2 plans fibre broadband upgrade for UK homes

2 min
Virgin Media O2 is planning to upgrade 14mn UK homes with full fibre broadband capabilities over the next seven years

Virgin Media O2 is planning to upgrade 14mn UK homes with full fibre broadband capabilities over the next seven years

Virgin Media O2 has today announced plans to install fibre-optic broadband across 14mn homes and businesses in the UK. The company, which was formed from a merger between Virgin Media and O2, says it is making the move in an attempt to compete with BT. 

With installation costs of around £100 per property, Virgin Media O2 will lay the ultrafast fibre technology alongside existing cables located in underground tunnels. The switch aims to have installed fibre capabilities in 14.3mn homes by 2028, expanding on the 1.2mn homes with current fibre broadband access.

Lutz Schuler, Chief Executive of Virgin Media O2, said the move will herald “the next evolution” of its network “ensuring we’re fiber-fit for the future.”

“Our mission is to upgrade the UK, and we are doing exactly that,” he said.

Fibre broadband installation to represent a “modest annual increase” for Virgin Media O2

The company has said that the work of installing fibre broadband across the UK will result in a “modest annual increase” in its current capital expenditure budget currently standing at £2bn (US$2.7bn) per year. 

The news follows the announcement that Virgin’s main competitor, BT Openreach, also intended to install fibre broadband, increasing its coverage to a further 551 towns and cities across the UK, as part of its £15bn programme to support 25mn properties. BT’s broadband rollout aims to provide the service to a total of 5mn homes and businesses. 

In a statement commenting on the rollout, Virgin Media O2 said: “Right now, we have the UK’s leading gigabit network, and this upgrade means we’ll be even stronger for the decades ahead, pursuing new opportunities and putting words into action.

“In 60 days since the formation of Virgin Media O2, we have achieved a lot, but this is just the beginning. With strong foundations for growth in place, we will boost connectivity, provide greater choice and be a challenger the country can count on.”

The firm added that “the existing cable network will continue to be maintained and developed while the extensive upgrade takes place.”


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