The UK government indicated an intent to press ahead with a series of reforms to planning laws designed to ease deployment of mobile infrastructure in rural areas, after concluding a consultation on initial proposals.

If approved by the UK parliament the new rules will allow operators to make various upgrades to existing sites without prior approval to boost 4G and 5G coverage.

Changes include an increase in the maximum width and height of existing structures in areas without protection orders in place. Any new infrastructure will still need agreements from landowners, while ground-based kit will need to be approved by local authorities.

The proposed legislation is designed to accelerate rollout of 4G and 5G in rural areas and reduce the need for new mobile masts to boost signals. Operators in the country have long voiced grievances on red tape and planning issues holding back infrastructure deployment.

In a statement, the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport called the plan “barrier-busting” [sic], but added law changes would place “tough new legal duties on operators to minimise the visual impact of network equipment, particularly in protected areas such as national parks, conservation areas, world heritage sites and areas of outstanding natural beauty”.

Responding to the consultation Mobile UK, a body which represents the country’s four operators, said the industry welcomed the reforms.

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