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Mobile phone masts could up to 30 metres high under plans to increase rural connectivity

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Mobile phone companies could be allowed to build taller masts under government plans to improve connectivity in rural areas.

The proposals would reduce the time and cost involved in building new phone infrastructure while minimising visual impact, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Masts could be up to five metres taller, meaning a maximum of 30 metres in most areas and 25 metres in protected areas such as national parks.

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These would be smaller than the 50 metres mobile phone companies had wanted.

But the DCMS said they would still be big enough for operators to fit more equipment on them and to share them more easily.

Phone companies would be incentivised to improve existing masts rather than build new ones, however, meaning fewer new masts would be needed to provide better signals to rural communities.

Existing masts would be able to be strengthened without approval so they could be upgraded for 5G and shared between operators.

This would mean they could increase width by up to 50% or two metres (whichever is greatest) and height to a maximum of 25 metres, although a local authority could approve greater increases.

Most new masts would still need local authority approval and conditions and limits would remain in place to make sure stakeholders are properly consulted and the environment is protected, the department said.

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Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We want to level up the country and end the plague of patchy and poor mobile signals in rural communities.

“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.

“These practical changes strike a careful balance between removing unnecessary barriers holding back better coverage, while making sure we protect our precious landscape.”

A consultation on the changes closes on 14 June.

Hamish MacLeod, director of Mobile UK, said: “We welcome the proposals set out in this consultation which will provide better certainty and flexibility to technological changes required to build world-class mobile networks.

“We urge the government that to assist mobile companies to meet its ambitious targets for deployment, it brings about legislative change as quickly as possible.”

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