Govt unveils plans to boost 5G rollout in rural areas

A range of measures to boost 5G coverage in rural areas, including a new innovation fund and planning reforms, have been announced by the government.

The government has introduced a series of measures designed to ensure the rollout of 5G mobile technology goes as fast and smoothly as possible, with rural areas especially set to benefit.

Among the plans set out by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport is a £30 million innovation fund that will aim to spark a “tech revolution for countryside communities” and ensure rural parts of the UK do not miss out on the benefits of 5G.

In addition to this, the department has set out a range of proposals for overhauling planning rules, which will seek to speed up the process of delivering 5G-capable services throughout the UK.

Digital secretary Nicky Morgan said: “In modern Britain, people expect to be connected wherever they are. So we’re committed to securing widespread mobile coverage and must make sure we have the right planning laws to give the UK the best infrastructure to stay ahead.”

She added that rural parts of the UK have long been a “hotbed of pioneering industries”, so it is vital these locations are not left behind in the digital age.

The Rural Connected Communities competition will see £30 million in funding awarded to up to ten rural locations to develop innovative trials of 5G applications and stimulate commercial investment in this technology.

Rural locations where 5G is already being used to transform business include Shropshire, where 5G trials are showing how farming can be transformed through targeted crop-spraying and soil analysis with drones and tractors, and Orkney, where the technology is being used to remotely monitor salmon fisheries and improve the efficiency of wind farms.

Meanwhile, a range of planning rule overhauls are also being put to consultation, with interested parties having until November 5th to share their views.

These include proposals to increase the permitted height of mobile masts in order to deliver better coverage, allow existing ground-based masts to be strengthened without prior approval, and enable building-based masts to be installed nearer to roads to support 5G and increase mobile coverage.

Mark Bridgeman, deputy president of the Country Land and Business Association, welcomed the moves, saying: “The current situation, where only 67 per cent of the country can access a decent signal, is unacceptable and government is right to focus on planning reform as a means to removing current barriers, but there must also be a balance between the interests of landowners and mobile operators.”

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