APPROVAL given to new 5G improvement projects in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) region is three times below the national average.

Internet service provider Three UK says approximately £17m of investment could be made into the BCP area if its full potential for improved broadband coverage is realised.

The Daily Echo has published numerous stories within the past 12 months on resident concern and backlash to plans for 5G masts outside or near their homes in residential areas.

Generally, residents feel aggrieved at a perceived lack of direct communication and placement of the structures during their planning application phase.

Bournemouth Echo: 5G mast in Castle Lane West erroneously erected in April5G mast in Castle Lane West erroneously erected in April

Following this, the Echo asked Three UK to provide some data highlighting the benefits such installations could have on the area.

At present, Three says it is upgrading 62 of its 63 sites in BCP over the period from 2021 to 2025 with 5G and improved 4G.

It is also trying to build 39 new sites. Of 31 planning decisions made, only seven have been approved. According to Three, this equates to less than 20 per cent of all applications – against a national approval average three times that.

Three says new sites are needed in urban or residential areas to ease network congestion and continue to provide an “ongoing excellent service”. As 5G frequencies are shorter (do not travel as far), it is not possible to provide a continuous 5G service simply from existing sites – essentially, new sites are needed in between existing sites.

Bournemouth Echo: Christchurch in the foreground, with Bournemouth and Poole in the background. Picture: Stephen BathChristchurch in the foreground, with Bournemouth and Poole in the background. Picture: Stephen Bath

In total, Three is working on 101 sites in the region which represents approximately £17m potential investment in BCP. It is said these improvements are necessary for the benefit of all 400,000 BCP residents.

Anil Darji, Three UK’s chief network architect, said: “Our mission is to provide better connectivity for customers and communities across the UK. We are investing more than £2 billion in our network to achieve that, and customers in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will have noticed upgrades that make their mobile experience even better.

“Our 5G network now reaches 56 per cent of the UK’s population across 3,200 sites in more than 400 locations, and for the third consecutive time we have been recognised as the UK’s fastest 5G network by Ookla, with median download speeds of 292.57 Mbps, a year-on-year improvement.”

Three also has a broader plan to turn off its 3G network by the end of 2024 on the continued roll out of 5G and improvement of 4G.

Bournemouth Echo: A 5G mastA 5G mast

When asked to comment on the below average 5G mast approval rates, a BCP Council spokesperson said: “Our planning team looks forward to working with operators to consider more suitable locations in the BCP area to support the roll out of 5G.

“All decisions for planning applications of 5G masts are taken following assessment of the merits of the masts against relevant planning policies. We are unaware of the relevance of decisions elsewhere, but so far the locations proposed have generally not been suitable in planning terms due to their impact on the character of the area.

“The decision to refuse some masts have also been largely backed up at appeal highlighting that the Council’s decision making on this matter has been robust.”