back to article Ofcom stands up to Information Commissioner

Ofcom is going to the High Court to stop the British public getting access to a list of every mobile phone mast in the UK. The telco regulator is appealing the Information Commissioner's decision that the public has the right to know where cellphone masts are located. Last September, an Information Tribunal ruled that the …


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  1. Paul

    Not to worry

    Even if it doesn't make it to public consumption, I'm sure we'll be able to get a copy on =)

  2. Mo

    I'm curious…

    …as to what the REAL reason they don't want the information published is, as none of the ones they've given stand up to any scrutiny, and I can't honestly figure out why they're so keen on it being kept private.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Anonymous Coward


    Much as I like the idea of this kind of information being freely available, it does raise a couple of questions. The first is, why are networks so opposed to sharing it? The second (rhetorical) one is how long, exactly, will it take the Daily Mail or News of the Screws to come up with some screaming front pager about how there's a MAST! next to a SCHOOL! etc et-frickin-c.

    Oh, and FFS, this story is in the UK. We appeal AGAINST rulings, not 'appeal' them.

  5. Simon Aspinall

    Shock Horror.

    Ofcom manages to get of its lazy ass and do something, unfortunatley it appears they are in bed with the mobile operators and thus their role should be palmed off to a neutral organisations that doesnt papmer to the companies it's supposed to keep an eye on.

    Oh yeah, instead of wasting time on challenging the information comissioner, perhaps they should concetract on BT/Virgin/TalkTalk trouncing the data protection laws in respect of the Phorm storm that is brewing.

    Ofcom = waste of space. What exactly have they achieved over the years??


  6. Red Bren

    Ofcom's Statutory Duties

    Taken from

    Under the Communications Act 2003:

    " 3(1) It shall be the principal duty of Ofcom, in carrying out their functions;

    (a) to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and

    (b) to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition"

    So WTF is this tax-payer funded regulator doing, taking another tax-payer funded regulator to court, for the benefit of the private companies it is supposed to be regulating, rather than the interests of the citizens that fund it and it is required by law to protect?

    OFCOM - the industry poodle

  7. RW
    Paris Hilton

    Corporations aren't persons

    But there's a legal fiction that they are, a legal fiction that has greased the wheels of commerce for centuries, to the general benefit of society.

    Time to temper that legal fiction with limitations, including one that says "but they have no right to privacy." Including cellphone network operators.

    Make 'em just like our gal Paris, no privacy at all, not even about the privates.

  8. popper

    isnt OFCOM setup and run for the benefit of the UK consumer...

    but isnt OFCOM setup and run for the benefit of the UK consumer, and payed out of the public funds for that purpose.

    so the Information Commissioner is the more powerful of the two, and its good to know at least one official body is looking after the UK people, hopefully not just in this wireless masts thing but the like of the ISP/Phorm personal data etc.

    what are the chances of OFCOM winning or for that matter the Information Commissioner loosing, anyone keeping score?

  9. Tim


    Here i was me thinking that ofcom work for the public Not the networks . Silly me! thats why my broadband is UP TO 20mb not 20mb

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    mobile phone masts

    are basically shouting "here i am!" all the time. Thus when the mobile-phone geeks start their mast-mapping wiki (if they haven't already), what the regulator or mobco's might want would seem somewhat irrelevant.

  11. Andrew
    Thumb Up

    It didn't take us 1000 hours - tick 'mobile phone masts' on the right hand sidebar.

    Took about 100 man hours of programming and about 6 weeks of gentle non-invasive spidering. And it's a hell of a lot more useful than Sitefinder.

  12. Philip


    When we published the existing data from Sitefinder to OnOneMap ( we were praised universally for our usability and accessibility. We were even cited in the Houses of Parliament on how to do this sort of thing propertly.

  13. Martin

    Freely Available on CD Real Soon Now.

    Coat, get, bye.

  14. WhatWasThat?
    Black Helicopters

    What goes out of that tower next door...

    The problem is that once you have a set of points of transmission and reception, you find that covereage may *not* be quite so well laid out as they advertisements (and the networks) claim. And they can't rightly let that happen, now, can they?

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  16. pctechxp

    I suppose

    We'll now be reliant on their unreliable coverage maps when choosing a mobile provider then.

    I thought this here regulator was part of the government and therefore worked for Joe and Jane public who pay their large salaries or have I got that wrong?

    I'm not a believer in the mobiles microwave your brain/testicles/whatever argument but I definitely think that the information should be made available and particularly where these sites are on public land (rented from councils)

  17. Dick Emery


    Probably some government conspiracy whereby some masts are being used by spies.

  18. Herby Silver badge

    What it comes down to...

    Is that the cell phone companies DON'T want to provide coverage maps to anyone. The excuse of not wanting to locate towers makes it possible to say "security" when they refuse.

    It is the same here in the USA. The only coverage maps a consumer might get are general ones. They consist of a red dot over a whole city (like San Francisco), which hardly takes into account the terrain (yes, San Francisco has LOTS of hills!).

    "Can you hear me now?"

  19. night troll

    @ I'm curious…

    Because information is power and they would not want to give any of that away would they?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom. Brewery.

    Nuff said.

  21. Mike

    get it yourself?

    all that has done is made it more likely that someone will start an "openmasts" project

    look at some of the open street map projects, they aren't exactly complete enough to use for, well, anything - however with mobile phone masts all you need to do is have data from a location *near* to the mast (anywhere in range, which does not only include areas where it is providing coverage, but as far as the signal carries) so while these projects don't have data from enough locations to get accurate maps, with few resources they have got data for "close to" most parts of the country - if they had added a GSM receiver and done the same then with less effort (no need to cover an area in anywhere near as much detail) they could have a map of the entire country

    hell, thinking about it what is this data worth to license out to various websites etc? enough to pay 1 or 2 peoples wages (and fuel money) to make a living out of just driving around the country? (mobile phone masts don't exactly move every few hours, so you only really need to cover the country once every month or so for accurate data - probably say drive around every city once a month and drive around the countryside once every 2-3 months, countryside may be bigger but the masts have a greater range so you don't need to cover it in anywhere near as much detail)

  22. Vince


    It's not comprehensive though, I know of at least 10 transmitters that aren't listed in my local area

  23. Anonymous Coward


    Being praised in the House of Commons is the death bell for any internet business.

    Keep it quiet boys.

  24. wabbit02

    sorry but opperators do give the infomation

    sorry - whats being argued here isn't that the operators don't give a FULL map of their network not that they don't give any information at all.

    if you go to site finder or for example you can type in a post code and get a very detailed coverage "estimate" for the area your interested in. If you want to see if a mast is by a school just type in the address FFS.

    I'd argue why do you need to know about every single area of the country - and what are the uses for this level of information. It becomes a tool for the rival networks to start analysing one and others networks. In my mind this is bad as it doesn't promote good radio planning and will lead to less coverage in rural areas as operators fight for the more lucrative higher population area coverage.

    If you start making the data mandatory then the operator's will start getting penalized for not having up to date (and the cost will be passed down in your phone bill). In regard to security - AIRWAVE essentially supplies the 999 services with a phone connection - should the location of every one of there masts also be published such that it could be disrupted?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Just mobile phone masts are not enough...

    I don't care theres any evidence of the risk, I want a COMPLETE LIST of all transmitters in the uk, especially these internet wiffy ones. Think if an internet wifffy connection was broadcasting to a school, a pedophiles delight!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    I presume that most people here are just WUMS or?

    If you look on Sitefinder, you'll find the sites deployed up until a certain date. The data includes the operator, the band, the height and the power. If the requirement remained at this, the operators would continue to pony up the data.

    What they DON'T want to do, is provide Excel Spreadsheets upon demand with northing, easting, azimuth, tilt, ERP etc of all sites that provide no benefit to joe public, but might potentially be requested under FoI act by a competitor, tin-foil hat brigade or other person with a vested interest. This is key data to the operators which they richly value as would any commercial operation protecting business-critical data.

    As for OfCom being in the operator's pockets, can you answer why OfCom is currently trying to screw over the UK operators by revoking and then re-selling the GSM spectrum (at a re-configuration cost to the industry, and by extension to YOUR tarriffs of around £1/4 Billion) as well as courting and enticing potential WiMAX operators into the 2.6GHz auctions solely to bump up the auction prices. Considering Vodafone has around 16 Million customers in the UK, and spent £6 Billion on 20-year 3G licenses, they have to recoup around £19 per user, per annum (3G or not) just to pay OfCom. That's £19 that could stay in your pocket!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "can you answer why OfCom is currently trying to screw over the UK operators by revoking and then re-selling the GSM spectrum "

    "as well as courting and enticing potential WiMAX operators into the 2.6GHz"

    well lets face it, you UK operators have doen a piss poor job of expanding the mobile internet in the UK with your pay by the megabit of someoe free web content.

    we now need Wimax to counter your pay as you download and get some REASONABLE fixd rate per month and get some real broad band speeds for free in the process.

    Greed and lack of base will was your downfall and i hope any new WiMax Vendors buying up the UK rented spectrum can prosper and grow to every UK wireless BB users benefit.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "we now need Wimax to counter your pay as you download and get some REASONABLE fixd rate per month and get some real broad band speeds for free in the process."

    So MOBILE Broadband is as cheap as £10 per month. More people are probably signing on for £15 per month. Vodafone rates vary from 1.4 to 5.5 Mbps downlink, and 0.4 to 1.4 Mbps uplink, '3' are advertising 2.8Mbps DL and 0.4 to 2 Mbps UL. Coverage is about 85% of the population. There's a choice of USB dongles, FWTs, PC cards and Embedded Modules, and it's available TODAY from 3, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Orange. Oh, and you can use it on your phone!

    ConnectMK/Freedom4 FIXED WiMAX is for £20 per month for 1Mbps/0.5Mbps and you're lumped with a big mains powered Airspan modem with an Ethernet cable IF you live within a 2 Miles radius of Milton Keynes centre!

    So WiMAX tethers you and restricts your download speeds AND charges you more.

    Well that's opened up the market!

  29. Paul Rhodes
    Black Helicopters


    AC, don't forget that the 2.6GHz auction will be Mobile WiMAX, for which live deployments have not happened, unlike the 1/2 million people using HSPA for mobile broadband in Sweden.

    The UK operators might have been hesitant in the past for full downloadable site lists to be in the public domain (it would have been obvious that O2 were 1000 sites or so short of meeting their coverage targets) but WiMAX operators will also fear comparing their 100s of sites with the 10,000s of HSPA ones. Tetra (Airwave) is already published on sitefinder.

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