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Welsh Government publishes plan to improve mobile connectivity

Thursday, October 5th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The Welsh Government has published an action plan as it looks to improve mobile connectivity in Wales.

The plan follows a meeting between skills and science minister Julie James, telecoms regulator Ofcom and mobile operators earlier this year.

It sets out nine key areas in which the Welsh Government can make a difference and encourage fresh investment in the country’s mobile infrastructure.

These include making it easier for operators to get planning permission for mobile masts and reducing non-domestic rates (the tax operators pay on mast sites).

Planning Policy Wales, a document used by Welsh planning authorities when creating development plans, will be updated to highlight “the positive relationship between telecommunications and the economy”.

The Welsh Government also wants to work with network operators to test new technologies such as 5G in Wales and encourage providers to work closely with the organisers of major events such as the Royal Welsh Show where there is likely to be increased demand for mobile services.

Ms James said there are particular challenges when it comes to improving mobile connectivity in Wales but said the service “needs to be better”.

She said that while the plan outlines what the Welsh Government can do to help, the “main levers” remain with the UK government and Ofcom.

“There is not one single solution to boosting mobile connectivity. Wales’ topography presents many challenges and we need to ensure we strike the right balance between the local economic benefits of improved mobile coverage with the need to safeguard our sensitive landscape.

'Urgent need for reform'

“We already have good examples of where we have worked with mobile operators to bring about innovative solutions to rural areas, and Wales will continue to play an important role in the support of emerging technologies within the mobile communications sector.”

Ms James said the rollout of fibre broadband as part of the Superfast Cymru project has already provided improved connectivity to more than 653,000 premises across Wales.

Hamish MacLeod, director of Mobile UK, the trade association for Britain’s mobile operators, said: “Mobile UK is pleased to see the publication of the Welsh Government's Mobile Action Plan, which rightly recognises the urgent need for reform and identifies barriers to effective deployment of mobile infrastructure.

“The Mobile Action Plan commits the Welsh Government to work with the mobile industry, Ofcom and others to deliver effective reform. The challenge now is to realise this ambition and implement the proposals promptly.”

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