back to article Dear Britain's mast-fearing Nimbys: Do you want your phone to work or not?

The UK's four big mobile network operators dropped in on Whitehall yesterday to plead their case for taller masts and other policy tweaks. With the public thirsting for better data, but derailing attempts to improve it, they're treading a delicate line. One of the concerns is the policy emphasis on providing coverage where …

  1. Alister Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "They want coverage where nobody lives, while people want coverage where people go," EE's Jones told us. "If you take the limit of 95 per cent geographical coverage you're going to find yourself where nobody has been for years, if ever."

    Just remind me, isn't it EE who are supposed to be providing the service for the new Emergency Services comms network?

    You know, the one which uses mobile to replace that silly old-fashioned "radio" stuff?

    But let's not bother to provide cover in out-of-the way areas, where ooh, I don't know, there might be ramblers or mountain bikers or mountain climbers or drivers or motorcyclists who might need help.

    We'll be back to someone running miles to the nearest phone box... Oh wait, they got rid of all those...

    Oh, and a final though:

    " you're going to find yourself where nobody has been for years, if ever."

    I seriously doubt that there is any part of the British Isles which matches that description

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      I seriously doubt that there is any part of the British Isles which matches that description

      I don't there are some pretty remote areas and the networks will have a pretty good idea of whether people go near their towers from the registrations. Obviously, they can't count the people where they don't have masts but I'm pretty sure that most places you're likely to be outdoors will give you a signal strong enough for the emergency services*. In fact, I think some of the mountain rescue teams consider mobile phones a mixed blessing: on the one hand it's great that people who need help can call for it wherever they are; on the other, knowing that they can do this encourages some people to be more reckless when they do go wandering.

      * Or do you really need 100 Mb/s all over the Cairngorms?

      1. M0PLT

        100% 999 coverage?

        "but I'm pretty sure that most places you're likely to be outdoors will give you a signal strong enough for the emergency services"

        I disagree - Radio Amateur answers 'mayday' call:

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-41041433

        There are plenty of places in the UK, some quite near to major urban areas, where the mobile signal is non-existent for all networks!

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: 100% 999 coverage?

          There are plenty of places in the UK, some quite near to major urban areas, where the mobile signal is non-existent for all networks!

          Brailles, Warwickshire. Only twenty minutes from Banbury. I'm with Vodafone and there is no signal in parts of the village or at a nearby golf course. I can't even send a text. My mate is with another network and he says the same thing. We've often thought that it makes that golf course a bit more dangerous than most in the area because if you have a heart attack while playing someone will have to get back to the club house (which could take fifteen minutes) to raise the alarm.

          1. Arty Effem

            Re: 100% 999 coverage?

            At every tee, the club should provide an emergency radio intercom to the clubhouse. Solar-powered / hand-cranked dynamo, job done.

          2. 080

            Re: 100% 999 coverage?

            "We've often thought that it makes that golf course a bit more dangerous than most"

            But it makes the golf much more enjoyable without some prat yelling into his mobile.

            1. AndrueC Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: 100% 999 coverage?

              It's a bit far for us and definitely in the back-end of beyond but we keep going there because it's gorgeous.

          3. Marketing Hack Silver badge

            Re: 100% 999 coverage?

            @AndrueC

            If people cared about their (mental) health, they wouldn't be golfing.

            1. Richtea

              Re: 100% 999 coverage?

              > the back-end of beyond

              Ha. 23 minutes to civilisation (Waitrose).

        2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

          Re: 100% 999 coverage?

          ... about two feet to the right of chairs in the staff room, 10 feet to the right of that, outside the building standing up very straight ... oh sorry, they are the only places where I can GET a 2g signal on O2 despite it having the 'best' coverage of the area ... 4g, what's that?

      2. Alister Silver badge

        * Or do you really need 100 Mb/s all over the Cairngorms?

        Yes, the whole point (or one of the major points) for replacing airwave with mobile was to allow the emergency services to use mobile data in preference to voice.

        However, as others have said, there isn't even basic GSM coverage in quite large parts of the British Isles, so ambulances, police cars etc will have no contact with their base, and their base will have no contact with the vehicles.

        Which is a bit of a drawback for an emergency service.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          GSM coverage is not directly relate to ESN coverage. There is a contract for availability in ESN that the emergency services will be testing using ESN 'early adopter' SIMS at the moment to report back coverage and highlight any issues.

          Airwave never had 100% coverage of the UK, there was always blackspots. ESN is unlikely to have better coverage than Airwave but it shouldn't be functionally massively worse.

          1. Ian Emery Silver badge

            2 cans and some wet string would be better than Airwave.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Emergency services need to have their own radio network constructed to fit the area they are in. The mobile network is fine for a back up but in the case of a real emergency, it's going to be jammed with people trying to Periscope, tweet and go live on FB. Forget saving money, some things need backups. If the backups are completely different technology, that's even better.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge

            The emergency services always take priority over other call types so I don't think that's an issue. When a personal handset tries to establish a connection it will just be refused. I'm not entirely sure how mobile phones work but it's even possible that the mast can just signal 'no service' and the handsets will refuse to transmit and will just passively listen for a 'service has resumed' signal from the mast.

            Anyone know for sure?

            1. happyBoy

              @AndrueC

              MTPAS. At least that's the UK version.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                MTPAS - Not really the solution

                MTPAS was a mess when I last was involved, its not well understood my the majority of users and does require special SIMS, amongst the issues are:

                The number of SIMS available to Local government is so restricted that it is not possible to provide them to the people who would be working supporting a major incident. We did not have enough to set up a proper chain of command let alone get down to the workers who would be delivering meals to the elderly in blizzards, working with the fire service in flooded areas, working with the highways agency to clear a carriageway after a major RTA etc.

                Because MTPAS is enabled at the SIM level not the number the service gets diluted over time as people move roles but keep their handset. After a 2 year period about 25% of our MTPAS sims had moved away from their role.

                Trying to get MTPA numbers changed was time consuming and complicated, the network provider didn't seem to understand the process and it lead to long periods where the MTPAS service was not available for individual users.

                This was in a well managed County Council with a large IT department and the knowledge of MTPAS was passed on, I suspect in many organisations the MTPAS allocations disappear when the next phone fleet renewal goes ahead.

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        You've not been walking recently, or possibly ever, have you?

        There are plenty of places where there are not spots, in not particularly out of the way areas of the Lakes, Yorkshire, even the Lancashire moors.

        I've had better coverage on some Scottish islands than some mainland areas quite close to civilisation.

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          The article makes the good point that if we're 'happy' (sort of) to have massive wind turbines (50m+) it seems silly to worry about a skinny phone mast. And a single 50m mast in the right position (on a hill not in a valley) can cover a heck of a lot of sheepwalks. So it would be sensible to have a policy that allows for 50m masts in specific situations - and if no-one lives there who will object? (Yes, I know, city-dwellers who don't want the 'view spoiled' when they're on holiday. Personally I am disgusted by the number of buildings and roads I see when I visit London. They shouldn't be allowed)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I found a few villages without any mobile signal whilst staying in south Devon a few weeks ago. I've had similar experiences in Cornwall too. I'm not talking five house villages either!

            What seems strange though is that the country I'm currently living in seems to be able to provide rural coverage without needing to erect 50m posts, even in hilly areas. Mind you, they also have rules making it obligatory to share masts.

        2. population density

          Wasn't there an eminent doctor who sadly bled to death while using her phone to call for help in a not spot in a valley near Fishguard.

      4. steviebuk Silver badge

        Go to Inverness and you'll find the Three signal pretty shit.

      5. rcw88

        I can tell you from personal experience there are THOUSANDS of locations in Scotland where there is zero usable coverage - not even a usable mobile signal to make a phone call, let alone 3G data. 4G? not a chance. 5G - pipedream.

        Anybody who expects to be able to use GPS on a mobile phone whilst walking in the Cairngorms needs to be prepared for the genuine feature of Scottish Highland weather - four seasons in a day. Its not a joking matter, people die for lack of adequate preparation and clothing.

        You don't even need to leave the Central Belt to have no mobile signal, despite tens of thousands of people living nearby and passing through on major roads.

        Since half of Scotland is already plastered in sprouting white wind turbines. camouflaging mobile phone masts would be easier if they are just as tall as the masts and painted white. There's a mast near the A9 / M9 roundabout near Dunblane that looks like a tree - so its NOT hard.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's conflating two different things. EE will be providing some of the infrastructure for ESN but they are also running extended coverage to ensure that the signla provides equivalence (of a certain measure) to airwaves.

      However those masts, even though they have the normal EE gubbins on them will not necessarily be available to a normal mobile phone. Therefore ramblers, mountain bikers etc willnot be any worse off than they are in now (other than the phone box issue). They do have the advantage that a 999 call will connect to any network regardless of your contract operator or phone locked down settings. If it can get a signal it can make the call.

      As for Mountain Rescue Teams thinking that mobile phones might be a negative due to recklessness. That isn't true, people have always been reckless. They false sense of security is more likely to come from GPS navigation rather than using a map and compass and underestimating signal coverage in the wilds. However a mobile phone (and gps) has almost definitely saved many more lives or reduced injury and harm than it has ever cost in recklessness.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        They do have the advantage that a 999 call will connect to any network regardless of your contract operator or phone locked down settings. If it can get a signal it can make the call.

        You seem to be missing the point I'm making.

        EE (and other operators) seem to be complaining about having to provide 95% coverage for the UK.

        But there are still parts of the UK without even basic GSM signal availability, never mind 3G or 4G.

        You can't make an emergency call if there is no signal, and it is the out-of-the-way places where this is most required that the networks don't want to cover.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          A couple of years ago I picked up a RTA'd motorist on Snake Pass and gave him a lift to Glossop so he could get a signal to report it, then gave him a lift back to wait for the response to turn up. My biggest gripe was the 999 service wouldn't take SK 090 929 as the location and insisted I describe the location.

          (My line manager was perfectly happy with me being an hour late for work considering the circumstances.)

          1. Ian Emery Silver badge

            You were lucky; I got fined 1/2 days pay for being an hour late.

            I dragged two teenage girls out of a wreck after their car had been "T" boned by a HGV on the M5; but had to wait for the Police to interview me before I could leave.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              "You were lucky; I got fined 1/2 days pay for being an hour late."

              If that was the penalty, I would have said "fine, see you after lunch" and used all of the half-day of no pay.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "You can't make an emergency call if there is no signal, and it is the out-of-the-way places where this is most required that the networks don't want to cover."

          Of course they don't. Those are the areas where there are the least number of people and the most expense in getting a tower put in and maintained.

          I like that there are still places where you can sit down and enjoy the silence with no bloody ringtones killing the ambience.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        As for Mountain Rescue Teams thinking that mobile phones might be a negative due to recklessness. That isn't true, people have always been reckless.

        You're misrepresenting what I said, which was viewing it as a mixed blessing. I've certainly read reports of rescue teams seeing an uptick in call-outs, sometimes erroneously, because people have phones with them. But, of course, everyone is pleased for the lives that have been saved because people had mobile phones and could accurately give their location.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "As for Mountain Rescue Teams thinking that mobile phones might be a negative due to recklessness. That isn't true, people have always been reckless. "

        I agree and go further by saying that news stories that go on about somebody not being able to call for help on their mobile and how that shouldn't be allowed should be banned. There is no such thing as perfection no matter how many laws are passed so we all need to shoulder a bit more responsibility and learn that life isn't "fair", it just is.

    3. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      There are areas of the UK where nobody has set foot in the last fifty years. The target zones of military artillery ranges, to name a silly example. There are also plenty of upland areas where people only ever traverse a few fairly narrow paths, there being next to no reason to go tramping about on trackless upland moorland.

      Really, I think that people ought to try being sensible about all of this; novel idea I know, but it might just work.

      Mobile phones are not designed to be all-purpose work-anywhere devices; they will always fail to work in a few places. If you want the coverage, you shall have to pay for it.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Mobile phones are not designed to be all-purpose work-anywhere devices

        So why are they being positioned as such? The industry, and to a certain extent government, are trying to suggest that nobody needs land lines or phone boxes anymore, it's all mobile.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "There are also plenty of upland areas where people only ever traverse a few fairly narrow paths, there being next to no reason to go tramping about on trackless upland moorland."

        However, if you cover the paths and the moorland roads you'd find it difficult not to cover most, if not all, the surrounding moorland. The moorland is likely easier to cover than some odd corners of the adjacent valleys.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        I used to go traipsing about the woods with the Boy Scouts ages ago before mobile or Sat phones. You have to take some responsibility when you do that and be prepared to handle certain emergencies. The mobile network is a commercial operation and every one of those towers has to generate some sort of income ie, subscribers in the area that use that tower as home base. Those that want coverage no matter where they are can buy or rent a sat phone and not drive up rates for everybody else by getting laws passed that every square meter of land has to have useable signal.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "The mobile network is a commercial operation and every one of those towers has to generate some sort of income ie, subscribers in the area that use that tower as home base."

          When you provide a service, it's not always good business to make every last little iota of it be profitable. Sometimes, part of the service will run at a loss and be subsidised by the other profitable parts so that you retain the ability to offer the full service. If you go full on capitalist and only provide service where you can guarantee a profit, then you will lose out to others who are prepared to offer a full service. In the case of mobile phones, people want them to work in places other than where they live or work, because, well, they are *mobile* phones.

          This is part of why the US system is so badly broken. Little competition so no incentive to provide better networks with wider coverage due more or less monopoly areas.

          1. Strahd Ivarius

            And in the next round of cost-cutting, the non-profitable services are removed... and you can be sure that whatever the initial promises it will be done sooner or later.

            If they are essential services, they need to be provided by the State, and never involve private interests.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "This is part of why the US system is so badly broken. Little competition so no incentive to provide better networks with wider coverage due more or less monopoly areas."

            Drive through the middle of the US where the wheat and corn grows and be thankful that there is any signal at all. It's just miles and miles of fields. Very little room for more than one provider. In towns and cities where there are lots of people, there are lots of choices and several companies can split up the users and still make money. Spend an afternoon just clicking down a Kansas highway in Street View and realize that it's even more monotonous than that.

        2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          You have to take some responsibility

          Nice theory. Meanwhile in the real world...I remember being in a hostel in Glenridding some years ago, reading the Mountain Rescue annual report. Jesus! People come out from the cities for a nice drive then decide to walk up Helvelyn in trainers/high heels/flip-flops and a T-shirt. Sometimes I think their crow-pecked carcases should be left there as a dreadfulm warning.

          1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

            @Pen-y-gors "walk up Helvelyn in trainers/high heels/flip-flops"

            Indeed, some years ago, me and a couple of mates had just done Ben Nevis, and were about 2/3rds the way back down, when we came across a family walking up. My mate, out of concern, stopped to talk to them, and asked if they planned to summit 'yes, we're going all the way to the top' said dad,.... "Ok, it's just that it took us just over a couple of hours, to summit and we started at 10:00hrs, ...it's now 14:00hrs, so the earliest you'll be done is 18:00hrs if you can match our pace. Oh, btw, it's raining up there, and there's still snow in places (this was the first week of July). it was raining lightly at that low altitude, so the youngest child was wearing his 'rainwear' one of those plastic ponchos you get on a log flume ride.

            1. PM from Hell

              Lake district gravel paths

              I had a similar experience many years ago in the lakes, my freind and I , both experienced hill walkers with climbing skills as well were descending into Windermere after a hellish 5 hour walk through sleet and heavy rain, we had had some very scary moments coming down paths which were little more than sheep tracks alongside mountain steams. As we got to the valley the weather cleared and we came across a couple of older people in pacamacs and street shoes who were convinced that the walk to the top would be a doddle because the lower path was gravel ( to reduce erosion, not to indicate it was a walk in the park). Despite our soaked and bedraggled appearance they would not believe that it was dangerous to go any further.

      4. Nick Kew Silver badge

        The target zones of military artillery ranges, to name a silly example.

        The military aren't out there all the time. When they're not playing, and the red flags aren't flying, those training areas are good for walking, and sometimes more.

        There are also plenty of upland areas where people only ever traverse a few fairly narrow paths, there being next to no reason to go tramping about on trackless upland moorland.

        I guess you've never been a lover of the Great Outdoors? Some of us go out there precisely to get away from the beaten track, though sadly that's not really possible in Blighty.

        But I have no expectation of a phone signal when up on the moors. If I do get one, it's a bonus.

        1. Twanky
          Coffee/keyboard

          'But I have no expectation of a phone signal when up on the moors. If I do get one, it's a bonus.'

          <misty>Oh the joys of family holidays wandering on the moors</misty> - rudely interrupted by a dozen frantic text messages from people from work as we drove down again to the holiday cottage.

          Nah. Not a bonus to get a mobile signal when you're hoping not to have one.

          icon: 'cos that's what I like to do --->

        2. Diogenes

          When they're not playing, and the red flags aren't flying, those training areas are good for walking, and sometimes more.

          I take it you like UXBs then

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "When they're not playing, and the red flags aren't flying, those training areas are good for walking, and sometimes more."

            Not if the area is used for live fire exercises. Those are always off limits due to unexploded ordinance.

      5. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        There are also plenty of upland areas where people only ever traverse a few fairly narrow paths, there being next to no reason to go tramping about on trackless upland moorland.

        But in practical terms, it's quite tricky to design mobile masts so they only beam a 10m wide signal along the winding paths. Simpler to just have a tall mast that can cover the paths, with the adjacent moorland as a bonus.

      6. Loud Speaker

        I think that people ought to try being sensible <P>

        You might try explaining that to our politicians.In fact, I promise to support any politician who passes a law against abject stupidity in high places. (I am not holding my breath).

    4. Frederic Bloggs

      "They want coverage where nobody lives, while people want coverage where people go," EE's Jones told us. "If you take the limit of 95 per cent geographical coverage you're going to find yourself where nobody has been for years, if ever."

      Just remind me, isn't it EE who are supposed to be providing the service for the new Emergency Services comms network?

      What people perhaps have not appreciated is that ESN is predicated on having 95% LTE coverage. Not GSM/3G. If one takes the South Downs National Park as an example, much of this is sparsely populated and also covered in trees (AKA "green sponge" [especially when wet]). EE has a non-existent to rubbish signal over a considerable portion of the non-urban bits of the Park. Precisely where emergency services might need to help an injured walker or rider. ESN press-to-talk and group calling (which Airwave was designed for) requires VoLTE. All requiring good LTE coverage - which is mostly unavailable in rural areas.

      But, never mind rural areas, what happens when there are 50+ plods all clustered around a major incident in an urban(ish) area around just the one base station? Airwave uses this strange property of radio called "broadcasting" which means that everyone on an EBTS and talkgroup will be listening on one channel and slot - it does not matter how many there are, one person speaks, everyone else hears. Contrast this with VoLTE which effectively uses SIP and VOIP (based) circuits to each handset. Someone presses their PTT, 50 individual LTE circuits need to be negotiated and lit up (BTW kicking off any non-ESN users on that base station in process). Will it ever work? On a major incident?

    5. steviebuk Silver badge

      You'll also find it ironic to know EEs signal at Royal Sussex in Brighton is super shit to non existent. Other providers have slightly better signal but despite EE being give the contract, their network doesn't even work 99% of the time at the hospital.

    6. David Shaw

      Mast sharing?

      In España you get about eight individual masts per hill , as each provider is sovereign.

      Does UK have mast/antenna sharing yet, even if just in rurality?

      Last point, density of smart devices with radio inside is already big enough that they could create a peer to peer mesh using a postgrad written waveform. How would that overlay the ‘no coverage’ areas? I think it could work well.

      You could have the mesh as Trumpton’s 6G radio, allow , of course, the devices to regularly forward their metadata to our KGB for security purposes, so they wouldn’t immediately need to downvote the ‘milliwatt’ mesh idea without thinking about it a bit.

      A lot easier to sell a mast to a community when one of its waveforms (mesh) sends a thousand times less ERP than the current masts. Also just explain the inverse square RF law, that “5G brain glioblastoma” will grow infinitely slower when the naughty antenna is much further away, on top of a pole. Don’t mention the terminal, unless it is to point out that mesh would decimate, decimate, decimate the power levels from a mesh handset compared to an 1+ GSM , into their lughole.

      1. M_W

        Re: Mast sharing?

        Yep. We actually only have 2 physical networks in the UK - MBNL which is EE and Three, and Cornerstone which is Vodafone and O2. Every other UK network is an MVNO to one of the core 4 networks.

        The differentiation in coverage from the two vendors on the same physical network comes from the different spectrum allocated, in the main.

        On this subject, I remember sitting in a pub in a village near where my parents live in Worcestershire. The locals were whining about the lack of coverage in the village on any network. (It was in a dip in a valley and although a few hundred houses had pretty poor coverage).

        I informed them that both physical carriers had tried (and failed) to remediate this by putting a cell site in the bell tower of the church and both times the planning was denied by NIMBY rejections.

        They were ‘well we don’t want a transmitter’ - I did try to explain that their only solution was a transmitter to provide service (funny that) and that the church would have made some money from way leaves too, but they didn’t seem very receptive to the idea.

        I said as long as you reject the planning you won’t get coverage...

      2. Loud Speaker

        Re: Mast sharing?

        the devices to regularly forward their metadata to our KGB <P>

        The KGB obviously need all the Facebook they can get!

    7. Pete4000uk

      Add a

      Large passenger jet making a scheduled stop on its flight

    8. Snar

      _._. __._

      I keep a 100W transceiver / digital MODEM and antennae for different HF/VHF and UHF amateur bands in the back of my car.

      HF NVIS (low-slung antenna, maximum RF at 90 degrees or so to the Ionosphere and illumination such as a parasol) and works very well and gives me UK wide comms when it isn't fucked with crappy tech that shouldn't be on the market / is not compliant with EN55022...

      Oh - but we are leaving the EU, so that shit legislation most likely won't matter any more.

  2. Ol'Peculier

    Knowing nothing about the subject, is there any reason why you can't put a box on top of a wind turbine? I see a few single fans in the Wolds presumably run by the local farmer, so could they be utilised?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      A lot of them are too high (will give you greater range but signal strength will be low) and I suspect the rotating blades wouldn't really help but you could do it. But why would you? A wind farm is hardly likely to have a lot of people in it.

      The issue is about improving coverage where people tend to be. In most situations this requires unsightly masts and towers that are higher than surrounding objects.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "But why would you? A wind farm is hardly likely to have a lot of people in it."

        It's not so much the people in it. These days it seems to be getting difficult to find a spot in rural England without line of sight to a wind turbine.

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge

          No wind turbines in my line of sight anywhere in my regular stomping grounds. Unless you count the toy one mounted on a remote house in a Dartmoor valley, or the pair of toy ones just by the national maritime museum in Plymouth.

          On the other hand, the TV mast at Princetown blights views for many miles around. Mostly at night, when its lights are much more conspicuous than by day.

          What is sadly impossible to get away from is urban sprawl. Can't escape that even at the heart of the moors.

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Urban Sprawl

            "...sadly impossible to get away from is urban sprawl. Can't escape that even at the heart of the moors"

            Ah, come to Arsetrailer, my boy! Camping here means deciding whether a new battery for your torch is worth the 6 hour round trip you'd need to get to a shop.

            Unfortunately, even in the outback, it's never possible to get away from the Keith Urban sprawl.

            Or is that drawl?

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        @Charlie Clark "A wind farm is hardly likely to have a lot of people in it."

        I can't quite see our local one from the office window, but it's not far away, and is a bit of a local landmark. They're not all in completely rural regions.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Very difficult - would the turbine operator enjoy having to send an engineer out to shut down the turbine whenever the operator wanted to access it, and provide suitable equipment to easily scale it. Would the operator want to be at the mercy of the turbine operator for tasks. The mast would also need the usual power facilities, backhaul etc which they would have to incorporate into the turbine, including shared contracts with the land owner etc.

      In reality the operator would prefer just to be allowed to set up a mast in a place of their choosing with their equipment under their control.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        >>>The mast would also need the usual power facilities, backhaul etc<<<

        I was under the impression all wind turbines already had network facilities to allow remote management as well as an external power feed to keep the HVAC & control systems running when the wind isn't blowing fast (or slow) enough.

        I'm sure the mast owners will also happily accept money to mount a few antenna 25m up a mast in the farm, no need for them to be stuck on top of the gearbox & generator housing & hard to get at.

    3. DontFeedTheTrolls
      Coat

      If you don't mind going back to the quality of call from the analogue days with the signal being broken up every time the turbine blade passes.

      (yes, yes, that's not the way it would work. It's a joke, hence the coat icon)

  3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    I went 62m up to the top of the Monument (Great Fire of London) last year and was surprised to find that cell phone service was much worse at the top than the bottom.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Why would an operator want to give coverage up there? They point the antennas down, towards the ground, where all the users are. It makes no sense to radiate upwards, it's just wasted energy

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      When I was renting a holiday cottage near Newton Stewart I found that climbing a mountain (or at least a hill) was the best way to get service. At the cottage there was pretty much nothing at all unless you stood in the right part of the garden but half an hour walking uphill and I could get several megabits of data throughput - way better than the internet connection at the cottage :)

  4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Stop making sense!

    the height restriction on mobile masts doesn't seem to make sense.

    None of this really makes sense in the, er, scientific sense. While it's easy to demonstrate that the intensity of EM emitted from the towers falls off quickly within a couple of metres, and that they're likely to routinely be closer to other powerful sources (such as WiFi-routers), that's not much use for people who not only don't understand science but positively distrust it.

    They probably also don't want they children to be vaccinated. But they still want strong phone signals!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Stop making sense!

      "they're likely to routinely be closer to other powerful sources (such as WiFi-routers)"

      To say nothing of their own phones when they stick them next to their heads and, of course, the worse the path from phone to base station the more the power it puts out. Perhaps phones do affect brains one way or another.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Stop making sense!

        Yeah, I stopped short of that one for fear of causing more panic. There has, of course, been a lot of work done on the SAR of mobile devices and manufacturers have got pretty good at directing signals away from where the body is likely to be… But along with mast-free phone coverage, surely we can have radio-free phones with broadband? ;-)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Stop making sense!

          "Yeah, I stopped short of that one for fear of causing more panic."

          A lot of the NIMBYism in built-up areas is along the lines of "think of the children", especially when there's a school nearby. Those are the children they're buying phones for in deepest ignorance of the inverse square law and the fact that the phone adapts its power output to the distance from the base station. I suppose the problem is getting past the panic to the point where an explanation is listened to.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Stop making sense!

            >and the fact that the phone adapts its power output to the distance from the base station.

            It always gets me that my phone battery will happily last all day whilst around my home town/county, yet only manages a few hours when visiting clients in London...

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Stop making sense!

              "It always gets me that my phone battery will happily last all day whilst around my home town/county, yet only manages a few hours when visiting clients in London..."

              Probably because of the highly built up area resulting in smaller cell sizes and large numbers of people using them and constantly scanning for and hopping from one to another.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Stop making sense!

              Is that not more likely due to the increased cell switching?

              EDIT: Beat me by 2 minutes, JB (nb) !

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Stop making sense! - Perhaps phones do affect brains one way or another.

        Difficult to affect something when it appears to be switched off most of the time.

        The brains, that is.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stop making sense!

        Head? Most of the dullards I see (usually heifer sized females with various fathered brats in tow) have their phone at arms length on speakerphone and are bellowing all manner of personal business into it (I pure shanked the cow, senga pure battered chardonnary, found her in bed wi her man etc etc) and then glare when someone asks them to keep it down.

        1. Cederic

          Re: Stop making sense!

          I have a new tactic for this situation: Join in the conversation.

          "Hi! We're on a train! Yes, it's noisy in here, too many people shouting into phones. What? Sorry, I can't hear you"

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Stop making sense!

      Surely there's a simple solution.

      Change planning law, so that all objections to mobile masts must be submitted on a government approved smartphone app. Then cut all radio services to that phone in all areas covered by any masts objected to.

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Stop making sense!

      My pet peeve are people who complain about the radiation danger from cell towers mounted on top of streetlights. ("Think about it....")

      I blame the education system for teaching people a lot of stuff but not actually getting them to learn anything useful. People just don't understand what radiation is -- how it works, what kinds of risks it poses -- so you get a pile of very articulate (and extremely loud) people sounding off convincingly about stuff they know nothing about. (....and its not as if it is a particularly complicated subject)

      (BTW -- I live in the US where cell towers on light poles are common. I don't think they'd be allowed in the UK because of all the dangerous radiation they're emitting.)

      (Also -- don't get me started about anti-Vxers!)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stop making sense!

        Little knowledge being a very dangerous thing.

        Coupled with snake oil peddlers online preaching some (to them) convincing sounding pseudo science

        My favourite being my brother who was convinced 9/11 was an inside job as it was "clearly a thermite explosion" and "if you unrestrict an alternator you can build a perpetual motion machine" he was deadset that alternators were deliberately hobbled to stop people getting free power........

        1. 's water music Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Stop making sense!

          he was deadset that alternators were deliberately hobbled to stop people getting free power....

          But why would you bother, now that cold fusion is only six months away from delivering essentially free power?

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Stop making sense!

      > they're likely to routinely be closer to other powerful sources (such as WiFi-routers)

      Err wrong way round, the highest power density which users will typically be close to are personal devices such as the laptop particularly if it is sitting on their lap, the mobile held to the ear and (for those using Tetra in the UK) the mobile clipped to the chest over the heart/pacemaker.

    5. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Tail wagging the dog.

      Lets be honest. 99% of it is "it looks bad/I don't want my garden dug up". I can agree with that sentiment, who wants their house being the one with the eyesaw.

      I cannot agree with the falsehood of using any excuse, such as "radiation" when being honest and saying "could we put it somewhere it won't look an eyesaw" would be much more responsive and probably get more backing (such as working with the community to put them on things like Fire Stations etc).

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Tail wagging the dog.

        "Eyesaw" - nice Eggcorn

        Are these the same people who have satellite dishes, large brightly coloured boxes parked outside & noisy shitting machines?

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Tail wagging the dog.

          Hahaha. Yes the dyslexia is strong in my typing.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Tail wagging the dog.

        "put them on things like Fire Stations etc"

        They'd have to big masts with powerful transmitters. There's not many fire stations around nowadays. We'd need a lot of "etc" to supplement them :-)

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Backhaul is expensive, too."

    This one always intrigued me: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.5494957,-1.9675032,3a,15y,58.25h,96.1t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sGSfPDHEKArHePtmHLEdwMg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

    As far as I can make out that little square dish (it used to be a round one) is the backhaul. It points directly at Holme Moss but from there the mast below the VHF antenna is below the horizon. I can only assume there's a matching dish right at the top above the big VHF cylinder.

    And do they give the farm an internet connection off it?

    1. TechStar

      Microwave backhaul as a backup to the hard wired kilostream link.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Do they even have a wired kilostream link up there?

    2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      @Dr Syntax.

      I'm not sure I understand the question. If it's about the square antenna not having line of sight to Holme Moss then they might be using Fresnel lensing to bend the beam over whatever's obstructing it.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "If it's about the square antenna not having line of sight to Holme Moss then they might be using Fresnel lensing to bend the beam over whatever's obstructing it."

        The Holme Moss mast has a number of visible microwave dishes lower down but they're all below the horizon from where that phone mast is located. There's line of sight to the VHF antenna. The other end of that microwave link must be above that. Rather him than me climbing up the middle of an antenna broadcasting about a MW ERP to install that!

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      >And do they give the farm an internet connection off it?

      Depends on what was negotiated...

      A friend in the Peak district ensured that an internet connection for his farm (and associated holiday cottages) was included when he was asked to host a mast...

  6. TiredNConfused80

    Erm...

    "Vodafone says 65 per cent of UK residents have a choice of four operators and some 65 to 85 per cent have to pick between two."

    Am I having a Friday Maths failure?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Erm...

      The other 15 to 85 per sent have a choice of 6.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm...

        Highly unlikely as there are only 4 UK mobile networks and there aren't that many locations where you can connect to a non UK network.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Erm...

          If one group can pick between 4 and another group can pick between 2 and both groups cross over then logically we must have 6. 4 + 2 = 6. I worked it out on the bag of a fag packet so it must be right.

    2. Persona

      Re: Erm...

      No, it's just gibberish.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm...

        It's meant to be.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Makes sense to me. They're saying all 4 networks have only 65% population-coverage in common. The 2 networks with the most population-coverage in common, have 85% population-coverage in common.

      Based on this sample size, if only 16-25% of Reg readers understand this, we ... must have had too many beers at lunch.

  7. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    In Egypt...

    In Egypt, the mobile masts are disguised as Palm trees, albeit very tall ones. They don't look overly out of place either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Up Yours!

      In England they are disguised as giant suppositories on a stick. They don't even paint them tree-green or sky-blue to soften the impact.

      1. Stork Bronze badge

        Re: Up Yours!

        Should that not be sky grey?

      2. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: Up Yours!

        There is (or used to be - not been that way in a while), at least one mast in the Cotswolds disguised as a tree.

        1. PerlyKing

          Re: Tree masts

          There's one in Epping Forest as well (just north of Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge). It's the one that's 50% taller than the surrounding trees and stays green all year round. It's obvious once you've spotted it, but not so obvious that it jumps out at you. And it's less ugly than the usual grey metal.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Tree masts

            "... it's less ugly than the usual grey metal."

            I really don't understand this stuff about functional things looking "ugly". How many people complain about "ugly" electric pylons? Why is a "tulips from Amsterdam"-type windmill more attractive than a wind turbine? They are both shaped by their function, so why do people want to live within sight of one but not the other? Does anyone complain about living within sight of "ugly" TV aerials?

            Mobile phone masts do a particular job - why do we need to disguise them?

    2. d-m

      Re: In Egypt...

      I was looking for British examples of this and stumbled across this great BBC article from 2003:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2734095.stm

      There was this "treaty of best practice" but, um, it doesn't seem to be followed: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2004/jan/13/mobilephones.conservationandendangeredspecies

  8. Rattus
    Flame

    I love the way that they are complaining that 95% coverage covers areas where people are not. How about just coverage where people are first?

    I live between Cambridge and Ely in a village, the population at the 2011 Census was 6095 so clearly there are people here. Outdoor phone coverage is possible (-101 dBm according to my phone roughly "1 bar"). I am not complaining that we are hard done to here, this is a problem in most villages in the area (I suscpect this is true for the whole of the UK but can only confirm where I have traveled).

    When you do have signal expect it to be "Emergancy calls only" because the cell site is massivly contended

    Quite simply someone needs to get their priorities streight. Perhaps an independant signal strength monitoring (and capacity checking) is in order.... I am reminded of a story not long ago about someone doing just this in the US...

    1. silks

      For independent signal strength monitoring see rootmetrics.com or opensignal.com, you can even contribute measurements yourself :)

  9. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Roaming?

    Why bother with mast sharing? If my network has no coverage let me us another network if it's available. I know that all the networks are aginn it, but I've never seen a reasoned argument as to why (apart from not wanting to competitors to get the revenue). If we're talking about areas with poor cover then it probably wouldn't deprive a network's own customers of service. Is there a technical reason why it would be impossible in the UK?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Roaming?

      "Is there a technical reason why it would be impossible in the UK?"

      No.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Roaming?

      I don't think the two (mast sharing and domestic roaming) are mutually exclusive. Domestic roaming has been done in many countries, especially with newcomer networks. However, it's difficult to get the pricing right. The host network wants to keep the price high enough that it can't be undercut and the guest network also wants to make some money.

      But, with more and more networks essentially being done as joint ventures with the equipment manufacturers I think the point is increasingly moot.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Roaming?

      Allowing seamless transition from one network to another mid call would require some work but being able to register from a static location to any network is not only feasible it is already available. A 999 call will do it today, a sim with a roaming agreement with all UK networks (such as a foreign SIM or a roaming UK SIM) will work today and are available.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Roaming?

        As long as the interface is trusted between the two networks (and of sufficient quality), an inter-network handover should be possible with existing signalling, I reckon (without bothering to dig out the specs). It would be a special case of inter-MSC handover.

        For packet calls it's easier - you just drop the call and reestablish on the new network.

        The main problem will be in the time it takes to acquire a signal on the other network. It's already a ball-ache hunting for different frequencies on the same operator, and this just scales the problem up (although it's mitigated a bit by lots of newer phones having more than one radio in them, so you don't have to go into compressed mode to do this).

  10. RayG

    I note that we pretend that everybody wants phone coverage everywhere. Personally I'd be quite content to see a lot less of it, and think we're paying far too much attention to whingers when it comes to lack of signal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I hope you have a really nasty accident in some area without phone coverage.

      You might, just might not be so selfish, if you survive.

      1. RayG

        I don't EXPECT to be able to call for help in the event of accidents absolutely everywhere I might go. I think it's an absurd expectation. If I fall off a cliff somewhere and can't call for help... that might well be it for me. And that's absolutely fine. I can think of much worse ways to go.

        Anyway I could as easily have an accident which left me unable to get a phone out of my pocket, or fall down a mineshaft, or break the phone, or not have taken it. Expecting to always be able to summon help is itself dangerous and foolish.

        I hope you learn to take responsibility for yourself and accept that risk is a vital part of life and that disproportionate efforts to reduce it come with horrifying opportunity costs. I certainly don't hope you have an accident, because that's bizarrely childish, but I hope you gain some sense of perspective in a way that isn't really dangerous.

        1. Groaning Ninny

          I think we need emergency phones in all abandoned mines, and mobile phone stores required for any settlement over 25 people. Oh, and charging points in lamp posts, mile stones and foxes. Perhaps even badgers. Not squirrels though, on no.

          1. RayG

            If that was as sarcastic as it looks to me, I think you get what I'm getting at :-)

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            But badgers are full of TB

            Best put them in mushrooms, and snakes!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: But badgers are full of TB

              I agree that they should be put in mushrooms, but only Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin mushroom). That way even if there is coverage you could, possibly, still have a great conversation with whoever you intended to call, at least in your mind.

              https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/controlled-illegal-drugs/magic-mushrooms.html

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psilocybin_mushroom

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        >I hope you have a really nasty accident in some area without phone coverage

        Back in the 1990's Iceland had really good mobile coverage, however, it was brought to our attention that if we had an accident it would take the helicopter 45 minutes to reach us; if the accident is "really nasty", it probably isn't worth making the call...

        There are parts of the UK where similar considerations apply (and that's before we consider the availability of ambulances etc.), having mobile coverage is a false security blanket...

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          > if the accident is "really nasty", it probably isn't worth making the call...

          It's always worth it, at least folks will know where to go to clean up the mess you've made, scrape it into a cardboard box, and deliver it to your next of kin

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >> if the accident is "really nasty"

            Interestingly, I remember reading some research where you were more likely to survive if you were on your own. Part of this is that if you are out of contact, you tend to pack and act accordingly.

            In my teens it never occurred to us to take a mobile phone; but then the pocket versions didn't exist until I was in my 30's...

      3. Cederic

        You mean the way I had no coverage for the first thirty years of my life?

        Fucking hell, how will I cope?!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I note that we pretend that everybody wants phone coverage everywhere. Personally I'd be quite content to see a lot less of it"

      Do I understand you correctly? Personally you'd be content with less coverage so it's a pretence that anyone wants more.

      I'm not entirely sure the logic is completely sound.

      1. RayG

        Sorry, but that's not what I meant or what I thought I said, and I'm struggling to see how you could read that into it.

        The article is written from a point of view of presuming that demand for better signal is overwhelmingly common. So, for that matter, is public policy (about not-spots and coverage and so forth). My experience has been that quite a lot of people think current levels of patchiness are acceptable - that if there's somewhere they can't get signal, that's OK, and that building a huge amount of barely-used infrastructure just so they can make a call in this particular ditch might not be worth the bother, cost, or profusion of mast sites. I don't like it when articles and commenters assume that these people don't exist, or don't count, or must be doing so out of superstitious belief that low-energy radio signals are harmful in some mysterious way. (I don't hold that belief).

        My personal view is that less communication access is entirely acceptable - I assume this opinion isn't very common, but I haven't heard very many other people express it. I commented, slightly grumpily, to indicate that this view exists. I certainly didn't mean to imply that because it exists, that therefore nobody with the contrary view exists. Have a good Friday night.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          "My personal view is that less communication access is entirely acceptable"

          You are welcome to have that opinion, but here are some reasons that it's not very common. First, people need mobile phones, because wired phones don't really exist as they once did. In the areas that were served by landlines, we will require mobile service to have the same level of coverage. we require this in many places where mobile signal is not great, and therefore are supportive of plans to increase coverage in those places where we are frequently.

          Second, mobile communications have been touted as the new system for everyone and everything to communicate. Emergency services, for example, have been switching from their radio systems to mobile. I understand why they're doing it, and some of their reasons are real problems with their previous system. However, it's hard to see that as viable when there are empty places in the map. Even if I'm not going there, it is important that emergency communications can happen there.

          My opinion, to the extent it agrees with yours, is that we don't need to have signal on every possible location on Earth. There are places where people don't go, and the benefit of having mobile signal there is low. However, there are plenty of places where people do go where there still isn't any mobile signal. I would like to see the companies working to fix that rather than work to sell ever more expensive contracts and obtain rights to as much spectrum as they can.

    3. Persona

      It's kind of annoying not having an indoor signal when the current fad for online authentication is to send a verification number SMS to your phone.

      1. stiine Bronze badge

        re: 2fa via sms

        If you still have any services that require this, you should log in and see if you can convert them to TOTP. Dyn used to require 2fa via SMS but now offer you a choice of TOTP.

        1. Ozumo

          Re: re: 2fa via sms

          Top Of The Pops is still a thing?

        2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: re: 2fa via sms

          > If you still have any services that require this,

          heh, you mean like a Visa card or mastercard?

          They're changing the way online purchases over (IIRC) £30 are handled, so that you have to receive a message and confirm a code back. For most, that'll be via SMS - though for some banks you can install their App and receive it that way

        3. Chibble

          Re: re: 2fa via sms

          Top of the Pops hasn't been on the telly for ages, and how will the website know whether I'm lipsyncing accurately when I've got my tinfoil hat on?

      2. silks

        Femtocell

        Your mobile operator may be able to give you a femtocell, possibly for free which would provide good indoor coverage using a bit of your broadband internet data.

        1. AdrianMontagu

          Re: Femtocell

          Yes we have two of them - They work now. Had lots of problems with them and many died.

          They need to be provider agnostic so that ANY telco can operate through them.

  11. Blofeld's Cat
    Facepalm

    Er ...

    The local environmental pressure group where I used to live objected to the provision of several new masts.

    Their objection was that the company concerned should not be allowed to build any new masts, until they improved coverage for their existing customers.

    1. stiine Bronze badge

      Re: Er ...

      That should have been simple. ATT does this for trade shows by bringing in a portable cell site and a large, LOUD generator on a pair of 20' trailers. I'm sure those NIMBYs would love to have a diesel generator running 24x7 on the street in front of their houses until they approve the new masts.

    2. CountCadaver

      Re: Er ...

      Same arguments gotted trotted out locally, along with the council giving undue weight to ONE person who claimed various pseudoscience maladies, that seeing a mast would ruin the view out of her kitchen window (which looks out onto a carpark (mast on the far side of the car park) and worse

      This despite the whole town lobbying for years for better coverage (previously there were 2G deadspots and only sporadic 3G coverage on EE) so people were NOT happy about the council trying to kybosh it and citing various PHB type reasons.

      Council gor overruled for not applying the law properly and mast now built and decent 4G coverage all over town.

  12. Graham Cunningham

    I don't get the "where people tend to be" thing. Where I "tend to be" (work/home/restaurant/etc.) is served by WiFi so a good signal is less important there. I would like a decent data connection when I am *traveling between* the places I tend to be. Kind of the essence of the "mobile" part of the name. Roads, trains, and so on.

  13. codejunky Silver badge

    Maybe a solution

    If monuments to the wind god are taller and we already know they are effectively useless this could be a great way to save face. Convert the monuments into something useful like a phone tower!

    The people already dont object to the ugly bugger out there and it can be made useful! Maybe even productive and income generating!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Maybe a solution

      Don't be silly. I'm not supposed to tell you this, so promise you won't spread it around. But wind turbines are part of an amazing plan. Why do you think they go to all that trouble and expense of connecting them to the national grid - even when they're in the middle of nowhere?

      They're not designed for generating electricity. They're designed so that Britain can fly! By 2030 - this country will be able to take off and nuke France from orbit. It's the only way to be sure!

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: Maybe a solution

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_in_Flight

        Sorry, it's been done. :)

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Maybe a solution

      "If monuments to the wind god are taller and we already know they are effectively useless this could be a great way to save face."

      The main one that .. er... graces my sky-line certainly seems to be inoperative a good proportion of the time including, I understand, a long period when its original owners had gone bust. The nearest phone mast, however, is located lower down on the hillside and is unobtrusive.

      I'm not sure what the blades are made of. It they're metal or even metal-reinforced, I'd expect them to play havoc with the signal. Otherwise there's certainly the basis for a good rural network of structures.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe a solution

      Thats funny we've already had several days in the UK without coal due to renewables (mainly wind) taking up slack.

      Whats next "they don't work and in fact the blades are being turned by power from the national grid"? (some muppets keep writing letters of this kind to the local rag, egged on by "Scotland Against Spin" (who have more than a slight wiff of coal industry front about them)

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Maybe a solution

        @AC

        "Thats funny we've already had several days in the UK without coal due to renewables (mainly wind) taking up slack."

        Good job we have a storm then yes? And comparing price per kilowatt how did that expensive squeak of generation cost? But as long as the monument to the wind god stands maybe it will grace us with another fart at some point to give its followers an example of them doing something expensive!

    4. silks

      Re: Maybe a solution

      It would at least provide a local power source, and those turbines tend to be in remote areas which are likely to have poor coverage.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Maybe a solution

        @silks

        "It would at least provide a local power source, and those turbines tend to be in remote areas which are likely to have poor coverage."

        From my understanding the turbine is a working piece of tech. The windfarm is an expensive eyesore that does nothing more than make some people feel better about themselves. The difference is deployment.

        Windfarms are a distance away, require a gas turbine backup to be run inefficiently and occupy a lot of land for very little output. Germany have to subsidise the green energy and the fossil fuel because they pushed green in a big way, subsidised so fossil fuel couldnt compete and then realised they needed the lights on.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    mast sharing

    "On the agenda is more mast-sharing, which could break the impasse in rural areas "

    Finally!

    The current duplication of infrastructure to provide essentially the same service makes as little sense as multiple utilities digging up the same stretch of road repeatedly without any co-ordination between them.

    Don't have anything against taller masts though. That means fewer of them, but at the same time better coverage!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: mast sharing

      They've been sharing masts for ages. I've set up contracts where the mast is shared. Usually Operator A setups up the initial contract and then sublets to Operator B with some of that money going back to the freeholder.

      The issue is that best location for coverage for Operator B is not necessarily where Operator A has put their mast.

    2. techmind

      O2 and Vodafone already do extensive mast-sharing in the UK

      O2 and Vodafone have extensive mast-sharing agreements for 4G in the UK.

      See: https://pedroc.co.uk/content/vodafone-o2-beacon-1-and-2

      In my area (Cambridge / South Cambridgeshire) you can even see (check on a phone) that O2 and Vodafone signals from the same site broadcast the same eNodeB identifiers...

    3. Fred Goldstein

      Re: mast sharing

      Here in the US, the mobile carriers don't own many of their own towers. They lease space from tower companies (who bought out the ones the carriers originally built). That way the towers are all shared by anyone who wants to pay the rent. Tower companies also broker spaces on rooftops and the like.

      Our towers have no height limit per se. After all, we have lots of big broadcast towers, and TV transmitter towers are often over 300 meters tall. In many rural areas, mobile towers are usually 195 or 199 feet tall. That's because at 200 feet, aircraft protection rules kick in and the tower would have to be illuminated and painted in stripes, like broadcast towers. Of course local government often do set their own height limits, subject to federal intervention. We also have towers disguised as trees, but they're usually not convincing. Here in New England, we also have a lot of old church steeples used as antenna towers.

      1. ckm5

        Re: mast sharing

        It also helps that CDMA was a favored technology in the US. CDMA requires 1/4 of the cell density versus GSM....

  15. John 110

    Could do with better coverage

    The EE reception in our house is crap. If you check the coverage map (we live in a Scottish city), it looks like we're at the bottom of a reception crater. So I complained. Their response was essentially "We hope you have better luck with your new provider"

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Could do with better coverage

      >The EE reception in our house is crap. If you check the coverage map (we live in a Scottish city)

      Yes, the Three reception in my house is crap, however outside my house on my front doorstep and I live (as far as those in Scotland are concerned) just north of London... Because I did get (voice/text) coverage with EE I use their phones. On the roof however, is a directional antenna pointing at the Three mast, which prior to FTTC provided my data service and now provides my backup access; EE's data service (to my house) was and still is rubbish, even though the connection is 4G.

      If you want to stay with EE and have reasonable broadband, get them to send you one of their signal boosters [https://ee.co.uk/business/large/your-office/boosting-indoor-signal/signal-box/ ].

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Could do with better coverage

        > If you want to stay with EE and have reasonable broadband, get them to send you one of their signal boosters

        Expect to argue, a lot, to get one though. Even then, only if you're on contract.

        It took me quite some time to get one out of them, because their map said that my property fell within a "good" 3G coverage area. Which, actually, is sort of true. The problem was, it's a very marginal 4G area, so 4G would become available - the phone would switch to it, seconds later signal gone and the phone would wait a minute before falling back to 3G. Only for the 4G signal to re-appear again, rinse and repeat.

        Plugging a signal box in meant the 3G signal was sufficiently strong and stable that the phone ignored 4G.

        They really don't like sending them out though, as they'd much rather you bought an EE firmware'd phone that supports VoWiFi if you want to be able to use the service you're paying for.

        Also, if you do get one, it'll handle up to 4 phones at once.That's _any_ EE phone with no pre-registration needed on the femtocell. So if you get home from work to find EE using guests, they may have taken up all your slots. Or if you've 3 kids and a wife etc

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Could do with better coverage

          I found the network team to be really helpful; but then they can view the actual cell data and see the stats for your phone.

          >Even then, only if you're on contract.

          Don''t see a problem with this, if the mobile is your primary business phone, it should be on contract (and with insurance so that if lost a new one complete with SIM and your original number is couriered next business day, to location of your convience).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Daft solution to a daft problem

    So if other countries can have higher masts with more reach, how about a massive one at Calais to cover England? ;-)

    1. stiine Bronze badge

      Re: Daft solution to a daft problem

      How about Northern Ireland for additional coverage?

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Daft solution to a daft problem

      It has oft been a problem in previous times with folks in Kent getting hammered for roaming into France (pre-EU rules on roaming), and folks in Calais having the reverse problem. Propagation of radio over water is very good already - no need to increase the height even more

      See The Independent in 2013, for example.

    3. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Daft solution to a daft problem

      Well, the whole idea of this "cell" phone thingy is that the antennas only cover a tiny piece of a city, let alone a country, so that they don't need to have a different frequency for each of a million cell phones. So just one cell tower, even if it were tall enough to cover all Britain, would be inadequate, as only a handful of people could use their phones at once.

      Of course, if it were possible to build a tower that tall, that might be the ideal solution to cover all the parts of Britain where nobody ever goes except perhaps once or twice a decade, the existence of which this article solemnly affirms. (I knew Canada had parts like that, but we're bigger and emptier.) How to prevent those frequencies from being snagged by phones that have a closer tower to use, though, is likely a thorny technical problem.

  17. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge
    Boffin

    The answer is obvious: wrap an SEP field around the mast.

    With a nod to the late Douglas Adams.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      I don't think so. For many of them, the problem is personal, and SEP fields stop working when it's specifically your problem.

  18. Grinning Bandicoot

    TANSTAAFL

    Having read all the comments to this point in time and having seen the aerostat in Yuma,Arizona,USA might I suggest that government warehouses be checked for barrage balloons to be used as in lieu. With the added benefit if suitably equipment of providing roosts for raptures. In the US tower sites were used in the 80's as income shelters and being non-operator owned some have had multiple telcos at a site. If the NIMBYS were to install the towers and ROI being tied to the totality of service through the calculated service area, attitudes would change.

    Now facetiously do not the proles know that if they yell loud enough that Thermodynamic limitations can be legislated away and there will be a free lunch.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: TANSTAAFL

      > With the added benefit if suitably equipment of providing roosts for raptures.

      A bit niche, isn't it, having a roost available for when the rapture comes? By that time, some raptors might have nested there, or we might be in a hurry to get in before the gates close

  19. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I live a long way from urban infrastructure and have no urban infrastructure wah wah!

    On my way home there's about 15 minutes where the car radio goes silent, it's a lovely reminder that there are properly isolated bits of the countryside out there.

  20. A.P. Veening

    NIMBYism at its finest

    [QUOTE]

    Last month, the good citizens of Barnes, one of the most affluent areas of London, succeeded in scuppering an erection by O2, which was trying to replace a 12m mast with one that was 15m tall.

    "The mast is higher than the permitted height of 15 metres, we measured the new mast on the truck and it is 15.5 metres, it is bright silver. The original application was for a wood coloured mast to blend in with the surrounding trees and it is effectively doubling the capacity," one concerned resident told the Sutton and Croydon Guardian.

    Half a metre of the pole goes underground, something the objectors had failed to notice. But no matter: the lorry and its load were sent packing. Barnes could breath again.

    [END-QUOTE]

    I sure hope they finished deconstruction and removal of the 12m mast before driving off with the replacement mast.

  21. BoraHorzaGobuchul

    Higher was better

    I used to have a perfectly usable EE signal when the local mast was on top of a 25m water tower.

    A few years ago the water tower was knocked down and replaced by a 15m mast... bye bye signal.

    A bit of experimentation with other SIMs demonstrated that O2 had the highest transmitter on the mast (and the best signal). Bye bye EE.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Higher was better

      It amuses me, in a wry way, that my village is overlooked by a 60m radio mast (it went up before mobile phones and so sits on the highest ground for 10's of miles around), yet in the 15 years I've lived here there hasn't been a single mobile cell installed on it - even though there is plenty of room. All the mobile cells being install on much shorter masts at some distance from it and thus are below the hilltop...

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Higher was better

        They probably never installed the mobile mast on the radio tower, because of all the dangerous, deadly, radiation coming off the radio tower...

        /jk

        1. Refugee from Windows

          Re: Higher was better

          It might be that the existing mast is in too good a position. If you have more masts but with smaller coverage it means you can handle more users, otherwise sticking a cell on a very good position might go too far. Too many users per node.

          Possibly the owner of the existing mast might want too much money to site their equipment, and/or not have enough electrical supply or telecom capacity to service it.

          The best locations have already been used, it's been a long period of filling in the gaps and there are still a lot of them.

  22. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    A while ago I went to a local community group meeting. The point of discussion I went for was something else, but there was a short bit before that about plans for a new mobile mast. It seems most were against it, and many would have preferred the operator (Vodamoan IIRC) to spend more putting in several much smaller installations.

    It was hard work, but I managed to resist chirping up that those saying that Vodamoan should spend more than they have to have almost certainly complained about their mobile bills, complained about coverage, and "shopped around" for the best deal (or some combination of those). It seems that most people lack the ability to see a link between what a business spends (eg on multiple smaller masts vs one larger one) and what that business needs to charge it's customers.

    For good measure, I see that it seems to be going ahead - several equipment cabinets have appeared at the site. However they are on the pavement rather than on the large grassy area where they wouldn't be in the way. Why ? I believe plans for the project (including putting the cabinets out of the way on the grassy bit) were vetoed by local politicians, but by putting the cabinets on the pavement the operator gets to use different rules.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy peasy

    15m masts.

    15p off tin foil at the supermarket.

    Win win

  24. David Pearce

    Stupid NIMBYS don't understand that the RF field ar ground level from a 12m pole is much higher than from a 25m mast

  25. livin' thing
    Facepalm

    So, phone operators, spend some money to make the masts blend in...

    Instead of the pig ugly things you foist on us now.

    Problem solved.

  26. Conundrum1885

    What about

    Using the directional antenna I invented with 240K alloy superconducting emitters cooled via thermoelectrics?

    Irony: this would actually drop field to near zero out of zone/etc, closer to a femtocell than a conventional mast.

    You could also have realtime feedback from the device(s) to each antenna so if people are streaming the same movie it

    nudges them onto a closer one with more signal and charge their devices to boot using separate coils.

    Just waiting on a few parts to show up. I can see a resistance drop at the narrow range similar to other re-entrant

    materials but due to the way it works you can only put so much energy through it before it quenches.

    As with conventional ceramics this works best 50K below Tc so to be useful without cooling it would need to superconduct

    near the boiling point of water ie 373.15K so not ready for prime time just yet.

    Random idea: what would happen if the antenna were made of metallic hydrogen engineered within a diamond pressure cell?

    LaH18+ would also work at lower pressure and it would be a trivial matter to construct an alloy which is kept

    superconducting by continous application of feedback, similar to the material suggested in that US Army patent.

    Its also possible that the cables could be filled with liquid hydrogen/argon and thus be used to both distribute and harvest solar energy

    while sending any excess through the HTSC core. Also a lot safer as H is only flammable above 4% concentration.

  27. jonfr

    More fear mongering on the way about 5G

    I had a conversation with a woman on Facebook about the claim that she was sharing about dangers of 5G radiation. I politely pointed out that is not how this work. I explained that 5G is just more efferent modulation of the signal that allows for faster speeds. It was in no way dangerous and all the radio spectrum that is now used for 4G is going to be used for 5G later. I also explained that this radiation wasn't dangerous because that's not how physics work. Was I listened to. No, I was not listened to. If I remember correctly, something similar was shared around the time 3G and 4G started being rolled out.

    This are the same people that fight against mobile masts and do not realize they have maybe been living next a television transmitter for 30 to 40 years broadcasting on the same frequency that is now being used for mobile communication.

    1. Fred Dibnah

      Re: More fear mongering on the way about 5G

      You could also point out that there's already a 4G transmitter in her home, and probably in her hand, producing a higher field strength inside her than any nearby mast. Inverse square law & all that.

      1. jonfr

        Re: More fear mongering on the way about 5G

        I did that, told her at what power levels are in use with a good signal on a mobile phone and less signal means more transmission power from mobile phone and that didn't change anything for her. Facts were completely ignored.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More fear mongering on the way about 5G

      and usually then she and her "hunnies" then pile in on you, with "F OFF" "GET OUT OF OUR TOWN"

      (I politely pointed out on a local facebook group that the law is quite clear about mud on the roads - farmers are required by law to remove it as soon as reasonably practicable and end of day isn't soon enough, and there are solutions on the market to clean tractor wheels to stop mud ending up on the road.

      Pile of doley mothers, young neds who "drive duh tractur" etc pilng in "F off" "this is a farming town get to f out""someone batter this prick" "end of day is reasonably practicable to me" "they don't have time to clean the wheels""they plough our streets when it snows" (ignoring that the council provides the kit AND pays them well above market rates) "bet you dont shop local" "i'm going to murder you" (funny the polis decided to look the other way as it was a single mother uttering that last one, yet if it had been a bloke uttering that to a female, his feet wouldn't have touched the floor)

      Hence I don't use farcebook

      Quite hoping personally that someone's offspring dies as a result of non child safe kids products they've bought off bookface be quite ironic given most of the peddlers are doley "mothers"

    3. jonfr

      Re: More fear mongering on the way about 5G

      The newest in this is that she is now running a sign list that claims 5G causes infertility. This is not surprising giving that daily-fail (daily mail) is running fear mongering news in the UK and spreading them to other parts of the world in the process (this person is not located in UK).

      The irony is that in her country there are no major 5G installations at the moment or any at all. They are running 4.9G in Denmark, were she is living (and were I am going to be living again soon).

      https://www.mobilsiden.dk/nyheder/telenor-og-telias-forste-5g-mobilmast-med-1-gbits-er-klar,lid.40137/ (September 2018, Danish)

  28. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Backhaul...

    Once upon a time, visiting a beauty spot in rural Nova Scotia, I was pleased to find a solid 3G mobile signal from a brand new tower.

    I was less pleased to discover that the tower installation was apparently so new that the data backhaul gave every indication of being via a dial-up modem.

    My theory fits with the fact that the only infrastructure in that area was power and telephone lines. Zero broadband of any description.

    Presumably they got the microwave backhaul up and running a bit later, once additional towers were installed to allow connecting the dots.

    1. jonfr

      Re: Backhaul...

      The problem here is two things. This is not a back-haul problem. This is that 3G has bad speed because its ancient technology today. Then there is also the issue with distance, speed drops off quickly as more distance you are from the transmitter. At 30 to 50 km distance the best you can expect is good 3Mbps connection. At 50 to 100 km if you get a signal the best you can expect is 1Mbps speed and lower.

      Weather is also a factor in this when distances are this great.

  29. John Savard Silver badge

    Market Forces

    It's quite right that there ought to be 50m high masts in rural areas. But given the lack of incentive to put cell towers in less-populated areas, isn't the obvious solution not to expect the private operators to do it at all? Instead, have British Telecom put up masts in rural areas to cover them to the extent desired by government policy, with the costs recovered by fees to private cell phone firms - which will be obliged to provide service in rural areas through paying BT for mast-sharing? (Or just make it plain, call it a tax on cell phone service.)

    If the government has to cover the rural areas, one can expect they would pay close attention to the cost of doing so, and thus remove the limit on 50m masts there quickly. They might even class cell towers as critical to national defence, and thus immune to the normal NIMBY process of community consultation, while they're at it.

    1. MatthewSt

      Re: Market Forces

      Apart from the fact that BT (a private company) also own the mobile network EE...

      1. John Savard Silver badge

        Re: Market Forces

        Not living in the United Kingdom, you can hardly expect me to keep track of everything that Margaret Thatcher privatised! So let's just put the British Post Office in place of British Telecom, shall we, then?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've no problem with masts if they're discrete

    However the 15m one at the bottom of my garden which has knocked roughly 10% off my house price isn't.

  31. tentimes

    Simple solution to all of this

    All masts should be forced to be shared masts. That way we wouldn't need so many. People that think the radio waves are affecting them are daft and should be ignored.

  32. AdrianMontagu

    Visible or not visible

    Anyone spotted the mast on the side of the M23 just south and opposite Three Bridges?

    No? Well they can disguise masts if they want to.

    I now live in Mid Wales. Signal - what signal. We don't exist here as far as Telcos are concerned.

    But London - that is a different matter. We still pay our phone bills, taxes and council taxes but we might as well be in Antarctica!

    OFCOM are completely toothless and should be disbanded and replaced.

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