Mark Casey, Head of Technology at Nobull
Only a few weeks ago we were bemoaning the state of 4G connectivity in the UK, I never expected that divine intervention in such matters would be quite so fast.
It would seem that following a meeting late last year the UK government, (the one we gave a bit of a telling off about mobile blackspots and not-spots), has signed a deal with the Church of England that will allow the mobile network providers to install network antennas in church spires across the country.
This new plan between the Government and the Church aims to improve connectivity in rural areas by making use of towers and spires and follows the successful trial of such structures in two dioceses.
Matt Hancock, the Government’ Digital Secretary, and Dr David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester, have signed up to make this initiative go nationwide. With more than 100 churches in the dioceses of Norwich and Chelmsford already being used to boost signal in local areas, this is a good start and one that is vitally needed.
At the beginning of 2018 Ofcom, the communications regulator, revealed that 82 per cent of properties in rural areas do not receive a 4G signal from each of the major phone networks; simply unacceptable from the world’s sixth largest economy.
As you would expect, Mobile UK, the industry body made up of O2, EE, Vodafone and Three has lauded the initiative and has agreed that the mobile infrastructure they deploy will not “impact on the character and architectural or historic significance of churches." Another good point.
Though we are delighted by this initiative and feel that an organisation as community minded as the Church of England will make a concerted effort to make it work, the issue of outdated planning regulations still looms large. They still need reform and quickly.
Unfortunately, this government and preceding governments, have got form when it comes to mobile infrastructure building. Back in May 2013 the Government announced, with much fanfare, the “Mobile Infrastructure Project” (MIP) which would build some 600 masts over a three-year period costing £150 million. In January 2016 MIP was very quietly put out of its misery, having built a grand total of 15 masts.
The mobile phone industry is obviously putting its faith in a higher power.