October 6, 2014

Deadline for Mobile Infrastructure Project put back to 2016

4G not-spots could be plugged with the help of BT telephone poles

The deadline for the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) has been put back until spring in 2016 at the earliest.

The project is backed by the government and is aimed at filling in any so-called ‘not-spots’ in the UK, to provide better coverage across the country. However, planning permission has been an issue and so far there have been only two sites in construction.

It was back in October 2011 when the £150m project was announced, and by July 2013 it had been backed by the four major networks. The contract went to Arqiva, which has acknowledged that ‘there had been challenges’ and conceded that the project had ‘taken longer than expected’.

Peter Wingate-Saul, Arqiva community relations manager, pointed out: ‘You have to engage with all stakeholders, including local communities, throughout the implementation process.’ He added: ‘We are currently acquiring, building and switching on sites at a good rate.’

Labour shadow minister for culture and media, Helen Goodman, commented: ‘First the government failed to roll out broadband on time, now it’s the same story on MIP. The problem is the Tories just don’t care about communications services in the countryside.’

Residents in Northumberland, Cornwall, Strabane, Powys and Aberdeenshire were promised by the government that there would be sites set up by the time 2013 came to an end. However, sites have only appeared in Devon in North Molton and in Yorkshire in Wimborne.

Coverage has improved steadily but there are still around 20 per cent of UK premises that are not able to access a 3G service from the major four operators. The latest figures from Ofcom show that 6.1 per cent of premises are not able get a signal at all from EE, O2, Vodafone and Three.

But there is still plenty of opposition to mobile masts being built, especially in rural situations, which has resulted in planning delays. Three, O2, Vodafone and EE have each signed up to providing coverage from each site, and have pledged to cover operating costs for the 20 years that the project is planned to run. The Government also plans to fund the construction of the new site infrastructure.

  • Stephen

    I’m sorry but in Aberdeenshire the MIP has been an absolute joke. For one it seems to be very hush hush & information if very hard to come by. But apparently only places with absolutely no coverage at all are being considered. There are many places in the shire with no 3G coverage at all and very poor 2G coverage, surely these are the places a project like this should be targeting. So the scheme has been active for 3 years and yet we have no masts live yet.
    In the last 3 years the cities continue to get more and more services but the rural areas drag on at snails pace, when are Ofcom or the Governemt going to take rural users seriously? We need the internet as much as anyone else!

  • Ogilvie Jackson

    Here in the Scottish Borders, it’s also been a joke…only 4 masts allocated to this vast rural area.
    Arqiva must come out with there FINAL rollout map soon. They also need to share all these Airwave masts [paid for by the taxpayer]. Many of them only have the emergency Tetra antenna on them and could quite easily accomadate mobile phone antenna. A lot of these masts could cover vast areas of rural Scotland.
    Complete NOT SPOTS should be giver priority over partial coverage areas !!
    The Government really need to get to grip with this issue.

  • Guy Kenyon

    As the Airwave TETRA sites will be superseded by the LTE-based Emergency Services Network (ESN) currently in procurement it is not expected that additional services will be added to existing Airwave masts. One component of the ESN is ‘Extension Services’ that is to contract for a neutral host for highly available comms to be delivered beyond commercial network operator coverage areas. Contract award is expected in mid 2015 for implementation from 2016 onwards.

    The award of MIP and Smart Meter comms contracts in the north of England and Scotland to Arqiva together with agreements by Arqiva with Cornerstone Telecommunications Ltd (CTIL – a joint O2 and Vodafone business) and MBNL (a joint 3 and EE business) should show the likely direction of travel. However, it is always the case that planning permissions for masts in rural areas are slow to be granted!

  • TDD

    Is there any information available about where MIP masts are going up? Any websites anyone can recommend?

  • Colin Grice

    Everyone involved in the £150m cash grab has gone quiet with practically nothing accomplished.

    There was a great fanfare and enthusiasm for surveying sites a couple of years ago.
    For example 18 new masts were proposed to cover large areas with NO coverage here in the North York Moors but none have been installed yet, and this was supposed to be a priority area.
    Any queries to Arqiva regarding progress are now ignored, previously they did at least brush you off with stock answers.

  • Dave Shorrock

    I’m getting the impression that the new administration has quietly shut the project down. The project is running 2+ years late, using Soviet era technology, and upsetting the very constituents that voted for them. Am I wrong?