Government vows to ease mast installation and stop handset locking

The promises were made as Chancellor George Osborne delivered his eighth Budget

The Government has vowed to make the process of installing mobile masts in rural areas easier, whilst promising to clamp down on the practice of handset locking.

Chancellor George Osborne revealed the plans at his eight Budget today (March 16). He promised the Government would give more freedom and flexibilities for the installation of mobile masts. This would include reducing planning restrictions for the existing telecoms infrastructure and allowing taller ground-based masts to be built.

Three sees the decision as a positive step. A network spokesperson said: “We welcome the Government’s announcement that they are to help improve coverage by reducing red tape in the planning regime and giving mobile operators the flexibility to build taller masts if needed.  We await further details of the proposals.”

An O2 spokesperson added: “We welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to improve mobile coverage and capacity by proposing changes to the planning regime for building masts. Mobile phones are now seen as essential, with the infrastructure behind them every bit as important to our lives and economy as our roads, rail or our energy networks.”

David Cameron also at Prime Minister’s Questions (March 9) that laws must be changed so more mobile masts can be built to tackle ‘not spots.’

Phone locking

Concerns that operators still charge customers to unlock a mobile phone were also raised. The Government said it would be committed to ensuring companies unlock a customer’s smartphone for free at the end of their contract. It can take between a week and a month, depending on network, to get a device unlocked.

According to uSwitch, unlocking a mobile phone can cost up to £20, with over £48 million being spent collectively by Brits each year.

The Government’s decision was welcomed by Three director of customer strategy Danny Dixon. He said: “Paying to unlock your mobile phone is wrong and frustrating for consumers. That’s why all handsets – contract and prepay – on the Three network have been unlocked at the point of purchase since January 1 2014.

It’s good that customers of other networks will finally be able to enjoy a similar experience.”