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Europe proposes no planning permission obligations for small cells

The EC has created new market definitions for small cell equipment, also recommending the installation of these antenna should exempt from planning permission requirements.

While the European Commission can only suggest the adoption of these rules with regard to network deployment, most member states would follow suit in some manner. This announcement should be viewed as a win for the telecoms industry, as one of the most cumbersome aspects of deploying network infrastructure is jumping through the bureaucratic hoops in local Government planning permission departments.

“Together with Member States, we must pave the way for the timely rollout of 5G, without restrictive administrative barriers, which will in turn create significant demand from our industry and will amplify European innovations and competitiveness,” said Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton.

The new rules dictate visual appearance of small cells to avoid clutter and specifications for a coherent and integrated installation. Standardising products will grease the wheels of acceptance, but also remove any concerns which may arise about the system being abused. The rules will dictate the physical and technical characteristics, such as maximum size, weight, and, where appropriate, emission power.

What is not entirely clear is whether these rules will be carried through to the markets which no-longer fall under the umbrella of the European Commission. Some nations outside the EU do follow the regulatory lead of the bloc, while the UK has said it will attempt to align its regulatory landscape with Europe following Brexit.

At the time of writing, it was not entirely clear as to whether these rules would be brought into the UK, but one would hope the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport, as well as watchdog Ofcom, are paying attention to this announcement. This should be viewed as a positive step forward, an attempt to scythe away the bureaucratic complications which are a burden for everyone in the telecoms industry.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this is speed. Bringing the next generation of connectivity to the masses cannot happen fast enough, both to ensure the value of 5G to subscribers and to close the digital divide. Let’s not forget, those nations who scale network deployment the fastest will have the better opportunities to capture the newly created wealth in the 5G economy; the wealth creation clusters will not be evenly distributed around the world. Cutting away red tape is a very important step forward.

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