Moors poised for 'biggest wifi' plans

Exmoor Image copyright Lewis Clarke/Geograph
Image caption Exmoor and Dartmoor present challenging landscapes to get superfast broadband across

Planning applications are being submitted as part of a "challenging" bid to bring superfast broadband to Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks.

The scheme is believed to be England's biggest wireless broadband scheme, based on transmitter numbers, 120.

Six councils back wider plans to bring download speeds of 24Mbps to 80Mbps for 95% of Devon and Somerset by 2017.

Planning permission for masts to help carry broadband across moorland, wooded ravines, and farmland is being sought.

Phase one of the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) scheme began in 2013 and now supplies 220,000 homes and businesses - largely using "fibre to the cabinet" technology - a mixture of fibre optic and copper cables.

'Transform lives'

But phase two will see radio technology used to deliver wireless broadband with speeds of up to 30Mbps over the "geographically challenging" national parks, which cover an area between them of 1,646 km squared.

Somerset councillor David Hall said: "It's the biggest wireless broadband project in England and it will transform businesses and the lives of thousands of people on the moors."

The aim is to reach 5,800 homes, farms and businesses over an area roughly 1,646 sq/km using radios attached to masts or transmitters. Permission is sought for one 50m tall mast, some 25m tall masts and others averaging 12m tall.

Those behind the scheme say most transmitters will not be attached to masts - but to existing church towers, barns and other buildings or wooden telegraph poles, to limit the "visual impact to the Moors".

Most of the Dartmoor planning applications have now been submitted by CDS while the Exmoor applications have been designed and are due to be submitted shortly.

According to UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed was 22.8Mbps as of November 2014, while rural speeds averaged a third of that.

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