back to article Working from a countryside plot nestled in a not-spot? Consultation opens on new rural mobile planning laws for bigger masts, wider coverage

The UK government has submitted major reforms to the legislation surrounding how mobile masts are deployed in the English countryside, with the aim of improving overall coverage and expediting the transition to 5G. The proposed planning rules, which are subject to a consultation, emphasised upgrading existing masts over …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    low population density

    Rural area near me has a few masts, but masts just used by one network - EE (added with its nice govt subsidy for airwave replacement, rather screwing over chance of other networks to compete as low population levels in many rural areas often make them commercially non-economic)

    An option would be to make roaming free to the user of other networks in these situations (or extend the subsidy so other networks also on these publicly funded masts)

    A sensible government would have mandated 100% coverage by all networks in the first place, but sensible UK govs are a bit of a rarity.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: low population density

      A sensible government would have mandated 100% coverage by all networks in the first place

      That would never have been economically viable, so the operators would have asked for government money to do it. Either taxpayers would have had to pay, or the 98% with good coverage would have been paying for the 2% where almost nobody lives. After all, you can't get landline installation in 100% of the country either, at least not without paying extra for it.

      Mandatory roaming in areas where only one operator exists would be a better solution.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: low population density

        Mandatory roaming in areas where only one operator exists would be a better solution.

        I totally agree in theory, but can you imagine the arguments about exactly where it would apply? "We're not the only operator, you can get a signal for ${RIVAL} if you climb the hill, stand on one leg and hold your phone up."

    2. Tachisme

      Re: low population density

      >“EE (added with its nice govt subsidy for airwave replacement, rather screwing over chance of other networks to compete…”

      You’re insane - or, at least, ignorant:

      - EE are losing money on the Emergency Services Network tender: there is no “subsidy”.

      - There was a competition, and other networks had the opportunity to bid for it.

      - mandating full coverage across the entire geographical UK would exponentially increase everyone’s mobile bills.

      Your comment is an example of what is wrong with the Internet: any moron with an opinion, despite how ignorant, can assert something and if it arouses people’s emotions, it will be propagated and upvoted.

      Full disclosure: I used to work for EE. One of the reasons I left is because of my contempt for the puddle-deep level of understanding, and sense of entitlement, of the average customer, and the implications that has for the demands made on telecoms companies by government/Ofcom.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I say just build them, stick them in fields and paint them green or make them look like trees on the edge of wooded areas. Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

    1. ST Silver badge
      Devil

      > [ ... ] or make them look like trees [ ... ]

      These are quite abundant on the Northeast Coast of the US - I haven't seen many of those in other areas of the continental US.

      They're trying to look like pine trees, but aren't doing a very good job of it. Still fugly. People point and laugh at them.

      I really think the ones that look like what they are - masts - look better. At least it's the "industrial" look - it is what it is, deal with it.

      Bite the bullet, and accept that without ugly masts there won't be any 5G coverage.

      Think of the alternative: Bezos or Musk sending in swarms of 5G drones buzzing about all day and night. That would totally suck.

      1. Emir Al Weeq

        "I haven't seen many of those in other areas of the continental US"

        Reminds me of the old joke: I went to buy some camouflage clothes yesterday but couldn't find any.

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

    Yes we did, but we got over it. We'll probably get over this one too. Mobile masts are far less intrusive than power pylons, but we also got used to those.

    1. At Random

      Re: Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

      Yes, and it is still happening for power:

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-56688162

      The shame is that power pylons are entirely avoidable. Distribution cables can be buried. It is just that the energy companies do not want to spend the money to do the right thing.

      The other, much bigger, elephant we have around here (D&G) is wind turbines covering our hillsides.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

        Burying high-tension lines is far from simple. It is also very expensive, it can cost 10x to 15x as much per km as overhead lines. It also requires hugely disruptive excavation along the whole length of the line (which the terrain may not always permit), together with access chambers every km or so.

        1. At Random

          Re: Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

          We are used to having long, thin, energy-carrying things burried around here. Have a look at:

          https://www.gasnetworks.ie/corporate/company/our-network/projects/projects-of-common-intere/cluden-to-brighouse-bay/

          It caused a bit of disruption, but not that much. (I live 2km from one of the end-points and was disrupted more than most, but it still was not a big deal.)

          We don't need pylons or telegraph poles, but for a couple of quid a year on a mobile 'phone tarriff.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

            We are used to having long, thin, energy-carrying things burried around here.

            There's a world of difference between burying a wee pipe for gas or oil, and burying an HT power line.

            Overhead cables are insulated by the air around them, which also conducts away the heat they produce, neither is an issue for a gas pipe. See the National Grid information, which says:

            To match overhead line thermal performance for a 400kV double circuit, as many as 12 separate cables in four separate trenches may be needed, resulting in a work area up to 65m wide. In addition, water cooling may be used

            The heating losses can be reduced by increasing voltage and so reducing current (power loss being proportional to the square of the current) but then the cables are much thicker due to the need for more electrical insulation. Gas insulation is a possibility, which can help with cooling, but you're effectively burying a pipeline filled with a greenhouse gas (SF6), which has it's own environmental issues.

            With AC distribution you get further capacitive losses, which can be reduced by using HVDC but that adds complexity and expense in the AC/DC converter stations.

            And of course any future repairs or upgrades to capacity can mean digging the whole lot up again, not just stringing another wire.

            There are very sound reasons why most long-distance power transmission is overhead, with only an occasional drop underground in the most sensitive areas.

    2. onemark03 Bronze badge

      Re: Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

      Here in Germany the Deutsche Bahn used to paint its metal poles for electric locosand power transmission a kind of light forest green. Kind of worked in that they didn't stand out so much.

      With the advent of the ICE, they don't do this now, unfortunately. Instead, they install gorgeous battleship grey concrete poles and gorgeous battleship grey metal catenary. Shame, really.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

        I'm wondering if I should know what ICE is? Thank you in advance. (Unless you tell me it's water that has got very cold.)

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Did we have this problem with telegraph poles?

          It's Intercity Express, a series of trains operating in Germany which includes the infrastructure needed to run them, hence the overhead utilities.

  4. Tempest
    Thumb Up

    Who Has Dark Communications Spots?

    A Baofeng UV-5r hand-held is quite adequate for free bi-directional multi-channel Satellite Communications.

    I have used it in many countries for many years when I travel, my ground unit is linked into a terrestrial cell system. Satellites such as this don't honour terrestrial borders and the FCCs of the world are too busy to track a portable.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Who Has Dark Communications Spots?

      Free as in free, or free as in free to you because someone else pays for it? If it's the former, you have my undivided attention, because I've previously been the one paying for it. And it's not cheap.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Who Has Dark Communications Spots?

      "A Baofeng UV-5r hand-held is quite adequate for free bi-directional multi-channel Satellite Communications."

      Really? Because I just looked that up and it doesn't seem like it does that. It's a terrestrial radio which can transmit on two or three bands using a relatively low power limit. Assuming you have the proper license to use it, you should be able to communicate over a few kilometers to people using radios on the same frequencies. Satellites, not so much. There are a few satellites used by hobbyists which receive such signals, but they aren't permanently available--the site I found that discussed them told people to look up the availability times--and they don't relay your signal elsewhere, so no internet. I also doubt that it's easy to send your signal to such satellites with such a weak transmission. Am I wrong, or is this a completely different device with completely different use cases?

  5. Mage Silver badge
    Boffin

    More Masts?

    A sop by a captured regulator? It's just a cheap way to extend coverage and reduces per user speed. A better solution is making licence conditions for better coverage and capacity by having x3 as many masts. Masts are harmless and can be unobtrusive. They are changing the wrong rules.

    1. First Light Silver badge

      Re: More Masts?

      Why not more, smaller masts rather than fewer, larger ones?

  6. AdrianMontagu

    Disguise them

    There is a mast not far from Peas Pottage on the A23. I can no longer find this as it is so well blended in with the other trees in the woodland.

    It can be done with a little effort.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Disguise them

      There's one I know in the New Forest, just outside Burley. Standing next to it, it's obvious(*), but even half a mile distance makes it blend into the trees around it.

      (*) The cabinets at ground level are huge, and tree branches are rarely exactly horizontal or vertical.

  7. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    A really stupid question but can a mobile antenna be installed in or mounted on a wind turbine tower? They are everywhere, mainly GRP, have power available and are mahoosive or would the blades shadow the signal too much? Would be a double use for an eyesore ...

    1. Licenced_Radio_Nerd
      Boffin

      The spinning bastards cause considerable radio interference and fading - known as QSB in Radio Amateur circles. This can be avoided somewhat with digital modes (Fusion/DMR/D-Star), but we are not using them at the frequencies of mobile comms (or at least, I am not). At mm-wavelengths, you are going to see all sorts of reflections and scattering. Far better to raze the wind turbine with RDX and recycle it to build new nuclear!

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Far better to raze the wind turbine with RDX and recycle it to build new nuclear!

        But could you then put the mobile phone antennae on the nuke?

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