Wales politics

Mobile 'not-spots' summit called by minister Guto Bebb

Man using a phone Image copyright PA

Mobile phone operators, farmers' leaders and rural councils will take part in a summit this autumn to discuss poor signal coverage in Wales.

Wales Office minister Guto Bebb announced plans for the meeting at the Royal Welsh Show on Tuesday.

Decent mobile connectivity is "vital" for small rural firms to develop and grow their business, he said.

The Welsh Government said it "regularly" meets with mobile phone operators to discuss issues.

The summit is expected to include representatives from farmers' unions, landowners, councils and the country's four mobile operators.

Mr Bebb told an Ofcom reception at the Royal Welsh Show more than a quarter of a million people in Wales work for small or medium-sized firms that need good broadband and mobile phone reception to make a living.

Image copyright Wales Office

"It is vital for small and medium-size companies and home-based enterprises to develop and grow their business in the rural Welsh economy," he said.

"We now rightfully expect our mobile devices to work reliably wherever we are, be it at home, at work, in a car, or in the fields of Powys.

"That's why, building on the discussions at this event, we will convene a summit with Ofcom, the mobile network operators and other key stakeholders to formally consider the issues surrounding poor mobile connectivity in Wales."

'Considering options'

Mr Bebb also reiterated calls, made by Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns earlier this year, for planning restrictions on masts in Wales to be relaxed as they have been in England.

Earlier this year, the former Chancellor George Osborne announced revised planning restrictions which would allow masts up to 25m (82ft) to be built in England without planning permission.

Mr Bebb said: "I want Wales to be in a position where operators find it at least as easy as England to invest."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Officials regularly meet with mobile phone operators to discuss telecommunications issues, including those related to the current permitted development rights for telephone masts.

"We are currently considering our options to ensure we have the right regulatory approach for Wales."

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