Government announces plans to simplify planning rules to speed up 5G rollout and improve rural mobile coverage

The Government has announced that following consultation, it is taking forward its proposals to simplify planning rules to speed up 5G rollout and improve rural mobile coverage.

The Government says that reforming planning laws in England will allow mobile network providers to put more equipment than they currently can on phone masts, making it easier to share masts and increase mobile coverage areas. This will help maximise the use of existing mast sites and minimise the need to build more infrastructure.

The reforms will allow:

  • new masts to be built taller, subject to prior approval by the planning authority, to deliver better coverage and allow more mobile operators to place equipment on them;
  • existing phone masts to be strengthened without prior approval, so that they can be upgraded for 5G and shared between mobile operators;
  • building-based masts to be placed nearer to highways to support better mobile coverage of the UK’s road networks, subject to prior approval; and
  • cabinets containing radio equipment to be deployed alongside masts, without prior approval, to support new 5G networks.

Before amending the existing legislation, the Government says that it will carry out a technical consultation on the detail of the proposals, including the appropriate environmental protections and other safeguards, and the specific limits to be put on the widths and heights of phone masts.

The Government also “expects the mobile phone industry to commit to further measures and assurances to ensure that the impact of new mobile deployment is minimised”. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here. To read the Government’s response to the consultation on proposed reforms to permitted development rights to support the deployment of 5G and extend mobile coverage, click here.