Pledge to improve rural mobile network
Media minister Ed Vaizey has pledged rural mobile coverage will "improve significantly" as he ordered landowners to allow more masts to be hoisted up in their fields.
The Conservative minister admitted claimed improving coverage was akin a game of "3D chess" between the Government, mobile operators and landlords.
But he challenged landowners to engage with mobile giants by offering plots for a reasonable rent in a bid to help them expand coverage.
He told a Countryside Alliance fringe event at the Conservative Party conference: "I can't deliver you instant good news now in 2013, but I hope if we meet again in 2014 or dare I say in 2015, you will find the coverage is significantly improved."
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Mr Vaizey declined to pledge more money from the Government at present, but left the door open for more funds after the sell-off of the 4G network – the next generation connection hailed as the single biggest infrastructure improvement since the railways.
He said: "Let's see how the roll out (of 4G) goes and then we are in a position where we have technology that is going to be in place for ten years we can identify where intervention is necessary."
The MP also blamed lack of investment on the huge costs paid by mobile phone companies when the 3G network went up for auction in 2003.
Mr Vaizey said: "The mobile operators paid a hell of a lot of money for 3G at the auction in 2003 so they haven't had the power to invest as much as they would like to. The 4G auction was much more realistically priced. I expect 4G to solve an enormous amount of the problems you are experiencing in rural areas, all be it over a period of two years."
Kip Meek, a director of mobile phone giant Everything Everywhere, asked for regulation to stop landlords from being "unreasonable" in extracting rent from phone firms.