back to article David Cameron hints at Budget law change to end mobile not-spots

David Cameron has hinted a law change will be introduced in the budget next week to make it easier to erect mobile phone masts in “not spot” areas. Cameron was responding to a Parliamentary question yesterday asked by Conservative MP Andrew Morrison, asking what will be done ahead of next week's budget to address the UK's …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmmm

    I live in a big city. I have 5 bars up in every room of the house. I still have dropped and missed calls.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm allergic to radiation from phone masks, though I've got a feeling the symptoms would go away if I could get >1GB FTTH.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    cue the Anti Mast campaigns

    You know the ones that don't want masts anywhere their kiddies yet the same campaigners give their kiddies mobiles. If there is no signal then they can't use those precious mobes.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

      "If there is no signal then they can't use those precious mobes."

      And if there's a weak signal the phone, situated next to the kiddie's brain, will turn up the wick on transmit. Did I read something about an inverse square law?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

        "And if there's a weak signal the phone, situated next to the kiddie's brain, will turn up the wick on transmit. Did I read something about an inverse square law?"

        Don't tell them that. They believe that the masts run on full power all the time whilst phones run on magic unicorn farts. Being informed about anything different makes their brains implode.

        1. PNGuinn
          Holmes

          Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

          "whilst phones run on magic unicorn farts"

          "whilst the phones are used by their little magic unicorn farts"

          There - FIFU

      2. Terry Barnes

        Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

        That would only matter if they ever used the phones for voice calls!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

      The problem isn't Farmer Jones, or Farmer Giles for that matter; farmers tend not to be too bothered about the aesthetics of their farms, and are a damn sight more interested in improved connectivity for their businesses. It's the likes of Cameron and his luvvie friends who want their rural idyll to look like a Constable painting, but with fast trains and motorway access to London, no unsightly masts but 5 bar coverage for their iPhones, a Waitrose in every village, and preferably no scruffy rural workers to drag down property prices.

      1. Ragarath

        Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns @Credas

        Your right about the land owners part. We have a mast on our land but still have a lot of not spots because of the topography. We also get a lot of tourists in the summer.

        The single mast we have cannot cope, the networks have been approached and we have said we will do whatever they need in terms of way leaves / planning so they can put up more masts. They still came back no because all they look at is the static population.

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns @Credas

          So with that argument places like the Glastonbury Festival site would be one big not Spot then?

          Methinks the phone company simply don't want to spend money ever, anywhere or anytime.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

        "It's the likes of Cameron and his luvvie friends who want their rural idyll to look like a Constable painting, "

        Not even that.

        The single biggest obstacle is the law which prevents mobile companies sharing equipment at sites.

        Which means at marginal rural sites, there might be 3-4 different sets of kit feeding 2 different masts - instead of it all running on the same radios/antennas and being divvied up at the back end.

        1. John G Imrie

          Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

          The single biggest obstacle is the law which prevents mobile companies sharing equipment at sites.

          Which law's that? Not a troll I really want to know

          1. Warm Braw Silver badge

            Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

            >Which law's that?

            Good question - the operators can't, AFAIK, share their licensed frequencies (and hence antennae). Though why they can't each create an MVNO that works across multiple licence-holders, I'm not sure.

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

              Yet there was an O2/T-Mobile agreement, there was national roaming between Orange and T-Mobile, and there is an EE/3 agreement.

              I don't think there's any particular law that stops active network sharing, it's just it requires a bit of organisation between the two companies.

              1. Triggerfish

                Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

                I worked for a company that acquired sites for cellnet, orange and the other players who I have forgotten about 20 years ago. It was very rare a farmer turned down having a field used for a site, they lost about 10 sq metres of land, where we built a mast and plonked a large electrical phase supply and put a fence round it, and then used to negotiate a yearly rent and a wad of cash for the trouble in incurred while building it. I don't remember many farmers turning it down.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: cue the Anti Mast campaigns

            No such law exists. Infact there are some sites along the M42 corridor around Solihull which are "illegal" if this were the case.

            Alan may be getting confused with network sharing agreements such as MBNL, which can technically be broadcasting 3 network codes (Orange, T-Mobile, 3) from one set of antennae.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Farmer Jones.

      No, Farmer Palmer ...

      "Get orf moi land !"

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Farmer Jones.

      Now I've got Farmer Jonesie's Travellin' Disco Show stuck in me 'ead.

      http://www.wurzelmania.co.uk/songsD-F.php

      Hint, when you likes a band as a young child, and especially if they weren't exactly youngsters back then, don't see them at a country event when you're an adult. It spoils the memory when you see them and say out loud something like "blimey, they're getting on a bit" before you can stop yourself. Ah, a glass of scrumpy, the only beverage I learned to like !

  5. monty75

    “Ten years ago we were all rather guilty of leading campaigns against masts"

    Translation : "Ten years ago we were talking bollocks about a subject we don't understand and now we're talking contradictory bollocks on the same subject we still don't understand"

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      As evidenced by this: "Vaizey has also said the introduction of taller masts, which will transmit signals further...

      The statement is, of course, true; however it ignores the fact that at greater distances the lower power of mobile terminals may well be insufficient to get back to the "taller mast" at an adequate strength.

      For those who worry about these things it's called a "link budget"; a technical term and thus completely beyond the comprehension of a politician. On further thought any sort of budget suffers the same fate.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Exactly commswonk. It's called a celluler network for a reason.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Indeed so. I wonder how may not spots would disappear, or at least shrink significantly if cellphones had "proper" aerials on them (like wot they used to have) rather than having to rely on a little bit of printed circuit track possibly obstructed by the user's hand.

          "This 'ere is an aerial, which in your case you have not got..."

      2. Vic

        The statement is, of course, true; however it ignores the fact that at greater distances the lower power of mobile terminals may well be insufficient to get back to the "taller mast" at an adequate strength.

        To be fair, having a receive antenna higher does tend to improve reception at most frequencies - certainly the ones we're talking about for phones. So you will get better range from your phone.

        Whether that's sufficient is, of course, a different matter.

        And, of course, expecting your phone to work over greater distances will tend to mean a higher average TX power - so your battery won't last as long.

        Vic.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    150m isn't very much for such a project. This amount will have been mainly used to get the provoders (EE, Vodaphone etc) to erect their masts in places which are not profitable for them. Also bear in mind that the providers often have to pay rent on the land on which the mast is erected. A farmer up the hill from me has a phone mast and 3 wind turbines on his land and is very happy with the extra income for doing nothing. But I don't thnk the providers are all that happy for much expenditure with little return.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      150m isn't very much for such a project.

      Of course it isn't but if you look at what's going on here it can be explained. It is another case of Vacuous Dave's policy making on the hoof. Inside his empty little head, he thought he'd offer a trinket to the peasants, and better mobile coverage was the best he could come up with. As this isn't part of any funded policy, DCMS had to search round for spare change and unspent budgets, and £150m was the collective total, along with some lint and a partially sucked toffee.

      If you look at the idiot decisions to ring fence huge areas of government spending, or various random decisions on health, defence or energy policy, Cameron is always doing this and usually without consulting or informing the minister responsible. As a plutocratic toff living with his head up his arse inside the Westminster bubble, he's so detached from reality that all of his decisions are informed only by the inexperienced sycophants that he's surrounded himself with as "advisers". And sadly he's simply not clever enough to realise how much he doesn't know, and goes round trying to run the country like some third rate mediaeval prince.

      So the fact that the money will achieve nothing is not important. The money wouldn't otherwise have been spent well or wisely on things you or I might want. Under Cameron the only alternative use for £150m would have been his obsession with foreign aid, or three days more net contribution to the EU, maybe another few bombing missions on the Middle East or North Africa.

  7. ukgnome

    Part of the charm of living in the Norfolk Broads is the lack of mobile phone coverage. If they can hide the masts so they don't blot the landscape then yeah maybe...

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Coat

      How about...

      one or two really tall masts- you could cover the whole country if they were tall enough...

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: How about...

        Or a fleet of Google Baloons?

        On second thoughts mayne no. do we really want everything we do on our mobile devices slurped by the Ad slingers? (well, they gotta get some payback somehow ain't they?)

      2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
        Joke

        @hplasm Re: How about...

        About 22,000 miles high...?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: @hplasm How about...

          re 22k miles high: don't laugh too loudly, that's exactly the premise of Iridium and friends, but they do need a couple of watts of handset Tx power.

      3. Dwarf Silver badge

        Re: How about...

        but then we would need really tall mobile phones to talk to them

        Someone call Dom Jolly

  8. Disgruntled of TW

    Once again ...

    government missing the point. I travel from Tunbridge Wells to London on the South Eastern railway service mainline. There are 5 locations "not spots" with ZERO signal (all mobile operators), forcing all data and voice comms to be dropped. This is a principal mainline route into London. Do you think this is counted in the 90%?

    Thought not.

    1. Ally 1

      Re: Once again ...

      Only 5? I thought there were much more. In the hours train ride it seems that you have at least 20 minutes downtime.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @DoTW Re: Once again ...

      I feel your pain, how is one supposed to survive when faced with those disconnected moments that run into tens of seconds? I was placing my Ocado order while on a train the other day and due to the service interruptions I entirely neglected to stock up on organic mung beans. I have written a stern letter to my MP.

  9. Blipvert

    terrorist bovines

    Apparently there's a dozen Friesians in a field in Sommerset that GCHQ can't surveil yet!

  10. ecofeco Silver badge

    Against masts?!

    WTF? So some flat earthers prevent some farmer from making money from the land lease or sale, and thus penalize everyone in the ares? And this was thought a "good idea"?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its Not the Farmers!!

    Its not the farmers who oppose and stop masts being built its:-

    1) profit calculations of the mobile operator.

    2) townies who have moved to the country and suddenly become NIMBY's

    3) planners as they are scared the NIMBY's will not accept the decision and will mount an expensive and time consuming legal challenge so its just easier to say NO.

    so don't force this on land owners force it on planners and local government if they say no then automatic refferal to the the relevant ministers to overrule them.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Its Not the Farmers!!

      1) profit calculations of the mobile operator.

      I hold no brief for any mobile network operator but I think this would be a reasonable concern. If any given site was to carry so little traffic that it cost money to operate rather than "made" money then the only way the operator could cover the running costs would be to increase eveyone's charges.

      For an expanding network any given expansion will / should generate more users and more use. There must come a point where network expansion is not accompanied by an equivalent increase in users (or traffic) and at that point the only way of covering costs is to put the users' bills up. If HMG offered my money and yours to the operators to build new sites but not to run them then I'm not entirely surprised that there wasn't a rush to take up the offer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its Not the Farmers!!

        I was NOT saying that the reasons were right or wrong i was just saying it was not the Farmers.

        I agree forcing non revenue generating masts is not sensible.

        If mobile phone companies have to provide 100% coverage then the terrestrial TV networks should as well.

        How about taking Open Reach out of the hands of BT and giving them the mobile networks and converging them to remove redundancy and add coverage then getting ALL operators to purchase capacity from Open Reach.

  12. Graham Marsden
    Devil

    "a law change"

    Whilst this sounds like a good thing, it's probably going to be part of the Tories attempt to rip up all the Planning Laws such that their rich mates can build loads of houses and supermarkets and by-passes ("It's a by-pass, you've got to build by-passes!") on greenfield sites (or flood plains) without needing to go through all that tedious business of demonstrating that there's actually a need or a justification for them...

    1. Commswonk Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: "a law change"

      Where we are we already have plenty of supermarkets but an ever increasing number of houses. Sadly the road network shows little or no sign of being improved to accommodate the inevitable increase in traffic.

      Oh and the numbskulls have decided to give all the available land over to housing, ignoring the need for additional schools. Result? More classrooms being built on existing sites so that already congested roads (in housing estates) become impassable on occasions.

      The only bypasses appear to be in the intellectual capabilities of the planners' brains

      I'm going to stop before this becomes a rant, if it hasn't already...

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: "a law change"

      From the article Cameron is talking about the law on "leaves". So he's trying to make it easier to get a compulsory grant against the landowner's wishes (because a voluntary leave is a contract and doesn't need to be forced by legislation).

      This is all about big companies, the sort that gives Prime Ministers that are retiring soon directorships, having the ability to force their way. A bit like the Hong Kong or Guantanamo Bay leases.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: "a law change"

        I think that is rather too much of a simplification. The original article stated "A Freedom of Information response... ...showed that the scheme's failured have* been blamed on problems with site providers' willingness to allow a mast to be erected, the local planning application framework, and the availability of electrical power.

        (*funny bit of English here, but I have left it alone.)

        "Site providers' willingness" certainly features, as does "the local planning application framework" but the "availability of electrical power" could be a major difficulty. Not much good in having an "ideal" site with no objections from the site owner or local planners if it is going to cost <deity> knows how much to get power to the place. It would be interesting to know the percentage of "failures" attributable to each of the three specified hurdles, along with a typical cost per mile for providing power.

        Altough not mentioned in the list there might also be complications in getting the "ground - based network" to some sites, although SHF links should be able to get round that fairly easily. Of course the GBN to the other end of the link might have to be expanded as well.

        It is perhaps not so easy as some (particularly politicians) might wish it to be, but as has been stated before technology and politicians do not make for a happy mix.

      2. PNGuinn
        Coat

        Re: "the law on "leaves""

        Ah!

        Leaves on the line.

        Now I understand .....

        THAT explains why I can't get a signal.

  13. PNGuinn
    FAIL

    ... In the budget???

    This idiocy has got to the point where absolutely anything can appear in just about any bit of legislation.

    IT HAS TO STOP.

    "Arnold Anthrax - you are charged with consuming a raw canary in a public place without a licence between the hours of 10.00 and 11.30 am on the day after a public holiday contrary to section 45 sub section 916 sub sub section 432 paragraph 91 of the road vehicle lighting regulations 1763 as amended by the sheep rustling act of 1803 section 97 paragraph 17 and as inacted by the vacuum flask (prevention of abuse) regulations 2007 and amended by the..."

    Or some such.

    Or is it just a plot to make the law so obscure that ...

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Trollface

    "Superhighway" - How 1990s of him

    At least he's not stuck in the 1890s like our PM.

    - I'm looking at you Turnbull.

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