We could see high-speed mobile networks spread a lot faster in future, if suggested changes to planning rules are adopted.
The changes have been suggested by the government, and would relax some of the legislation governing how networks put up masts and antennas, the BBC reports. Namely, operators would be able to fix more antennas to walls, and use more 'microcells' to boost network capacity. We'd need fewer sites for base stations too, as networks would be encouraged to share masts, like a mobile version of car sharing. Budge up O2, Three needs a little more room.
The government hopes that relaxing the rules will kickstart the spread of high-speed mobile networks, like the 4G spectrum recently doled out to Three, Vodafone and O2 (joining Everything Everywhere's existing network). And we're going to need it, if the numbers are anything to go by.
92 per cent of us Brits own a mobile, according to government figures, and 39 per cent of those are smart phones that can get online. Boffins at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport reckon demand for the mobile Web will increase 80-fold in the next 17 years, but current regulations are like a stranglehold on the networks.
You can read the proposals in full here.
"Demand for mobile broadband in particular is increasing at a phenomenal rate," communications minister Ed Vaizey said in a statement. "We need to ensure that businesses and individuals can access this as soon as possible, if its full potential as a driver for growth is to be realised."
The proposals would keep mobile masts from being put up in protected areas, but would let them be placed further back from the edge of a building, making them less visible from the ground. Mounting antennas on walls would also be more straightforward.
More than £1 billion of public money will be spent, including £150 million just for mobile. The government reckons 10 million more homes and businesses will be connected to the Internet as a result.
Want to have your opinion heard? The government is running a consultation on the matter until 14 June, so email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or let me know below in the comments, or on Facebook.