Wales is behind most of the UK when it comes to 4G coverage and it looks in danger of falling even further behind when it comes to 5G.
That’s the finding of the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, having reviewed the Welsh government’s Mobile Action Plan.
The Committee found that while 4G coverage is improving this is because of mobile networks, rather than any work done by the Welsh government, and it has identified some specific problem points for the roll out of 5G.
The main one of these seems to be restrictions on the height and location of masts, particularly as this can prevent the sharing of infrastructure (which itself could cut costs and time when rolling out 5G). Speaking to the Committee, EE explained:
“If you want to be able to share infrastructure, it needs to be large enough, big enough, to accommodate the equipment for multiple operators, and if, broadly, we are restricted to 15m high masts in Wales under permitted development rights, it makes that incredibly difficult.”
There’s some good news there, as the Welsh government is proposing allowing 25 metre masts in non-protected regions, but the Committee thinks it needs to go even further and allow 30 metre tall masts.
Identify and tackle
The Committee also wants the Welsh government to consult with mobile networks in order to identify and tackle other 5G challenges.
Another issue Wales faces for coverage is that it’s a largely rural country, which means it’s not always commercially viable to provide coverage to the more isolated regions.
With that in mind, the Committee additionally wants networks to be obliged to provide coverage as part of the regulatory framework in which they operate, or for the public sector to be given the right to provide coverage if none is supplied after a reasonable time.
These are all things that the Welsh government will need to address, so hopefully it takes the report seriously and takes the necessary steps.