Future subsidies to landowners in Wales should be conditional on them allowing mobile phone masts on their land, according to a National Assembly committee. A report from the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee calls on the Welsh Government to consider innovative ways to connect Wales. The Committee agreed that more could be done to explore public subsidy to improve mobile coverage in areas which remain commercially unviable.
The report states: “In particular, where landowners are already in receipt of public subsidies, it seems strange that they could refuse to allow mobile operators access to their land to maintain and construct mobile masts.
Mobile phone mast in North Wales
“The Welsh Government should consider making future public subsidy conditional on supporting government policy to improve digital infrastructure and to ensure that it meets the needs of consumers in the future, in particular any likely convergence between broadband and mobile internet connectivity.”
The committee is also asking the Welsh Government to consider reforming the planning regime to improve mobile phone coverage across the country.
Other recommendations from the report include establishing a repayable grant or equity scheme to allow small operators to fill broadband gaps, and involving the communities without broadband in the process of finding a solution.
It said regulator Ofcom needs to use all its powers to meet its target of 100% mobile coverage, which should be a condition of future auctions of the right to transmit.
Russell George AM, chairman of the committee, said: “Connectivity is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ in our daily lives.
“For many people and businesses we spoke to during our inquiry, it’s now considered an essential service like electricity.
“Wales’s landscape and population spread poses challenges in a world where market forces determine broadband and mobile phone coverage.
“While the Welsh Government’s Superfast Cymru broadband scheme, delivered with BT, has connected high numbers of people, there remain pockets it has not be able to reach, and this is echoed with mobile phone coverage.”
He added: “Our recommendations will help Wales to develop a digital infrastructure which is as fast and as reliable as other parts of the UK, and is fit for the future.
“Filling in the gaps so that everyone can receive a good service is the minimum requirement.
“More can be done to help people take up those services once available and to take potentially controversial steps to ensure that the connectivity many of us take for granted is available to all.1
More than ?11m is to be spent to set up wireless broadband in rural parts of Shropshire with the help of a Worcester business. Connecting Shropshire has named Airband Community Internet as the delivery partner for the next phase of the county council’s superfast broadband programme. The council has said the work will take three years to complete and the new transmitters will reach 14,000 homes and businesses.
Airband will be deploying wireless broadband, which works by sending a signal from a transmitter on a mast, to a receiver attached to the property. A cable is then run into the building allowing the end-user to access the internet in the same way as any other broadband connection. Redmond Peel, managing director of Airband, said: “We are delighted to have won the contract to deploy our fixed wireless network in Shropshire.
“Knowing how essential high-speed broadband is, we are looking forward to working with local residents and businesses to provide fast and reliable Internet connections.
“Our experience of building masts to deploy wireless broadband services in the Midlands, Wales, Dartmoor and Exmoor has given us extensive insight into dealing with the geographical challenges that we will come across in Shropshire.”
Nic Laurens, the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “I am delighted that we have secured a technology partner that can deliver superfast broadband to some of the most rural parts of the county.
“When this contract is completed, we expect 98 per cent of premises in the council area to have access to superfast broadband.”