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UK government moves to improve telco access to street furniture

BT Tower framed by decorative lamp post

Things like streetlights are handy places to put mobile base stations but they can often be hard to access. The UK government is trying to change that.

The DCMS announcement says it wants to ‘slash red tape from 5G roll out’, but in this case it’s referring only to so-called ‘street furniture’. This means publicly-owned things like streetlights, bus stops, CCTV poles and traffic lights. These elevated structures can double as towers for enterprising mobile network operators but it looks like that process is encumbered by bureaucracy and unhelpful jobsworths.

So the department of fun is going to chuck a few quid at eight projects that will aim to ‘simplify local authority processes’. A focus of these projects will be in digital asset management platforms, from which we can infer an absence of them from the local authorities whose job it is to maintain this stuff. The ultimate aim seems to be to bring them into the 21st century in the hope they’ll be a bit more helpful.

“Everyone gets frustrated when their mobile signal is poor, particularly when patchy coverage holds up important work and social calls and makes it harder to do stuff online,” empathised Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez. “That is why we are determined to get the UK the connectivity it needs by rolling out better mobile coverage as quickly as possible.

“Currently, mobile companies are finding it difficult to get the data they need to check that a lamppost, bus shelter or public building is suitable for hosting their kit. These eight pilots will help solve this by modernising the way local authorities and operators work together in a way that ultimately delivers faster, more reliable mobile coverage for millions of people. It is all part of our joined-up strategy to deliver world-class connectivity to every corner of our country.”

The eight projects will be respectively led by Dorset Council, North of Tyne Combined Authority, Scottish Futures Trust, West Berkshire Council, West London Alliance, West Midlands Combined Authority, West of England Combined Authority, and West Sussex County Council. No timescales have been shared and operators would be wise to resist the temptation to hold their breath in anticipation of radical reform any time soon.

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