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23 April 2013

Improvements announced today to the planning rules for small scale changes to mobile phone base stations in Northern Ireland were welcomed by the UK mobile phone network operators.

John Cooke, Executive Director Mobile Operations Association, said: “Taking small changes to existing mobile phone masts out of the full planning system will make it easier for operators to improve services for customers in Northern Ireland. All the operators are upgrading their existing network services, as well as introducing 4G superfast mobile broadband.”

He added: “We have been advocating streamlining the planning regime to rollout the benefits of better connectivity as quickly as possible. In terms of the economic impact, research shows that across a range of countries, a doubling of mobile data use leads to an increase of 0.5 percentage points in the GDP per capita. That equates to about £160m in terms of Northern Ireland GDP. That applies whether we are talking about data on any type of mobile broadband service, whether it’s 3G or 4G.”

Almost nine in ten small firms say that a mobile phone is important to their business operation, and around six in ten claim a mobile internet service is important to them.
John Cooke added: “The importance of good digital connectivity is already recognised by the Northern Ireland Government, which has acknowledged that connectivity is a basic requirement for the development of a knowledge-based economy as well as a necessity for the adoption and usage of information and communication technologies.”

“And it’s not just business that benefits from good connectivity. In terms of social inclusion, more people rely on a mobile phone than rely on a landline; and people on lower incomes are even more likely to live in a mobile-only household, or to access the Internet using a mobile connection.”
He concluded: “Mobile connectivity is also vital in the delivery of public services. Central government and local authorities are increasingly encouraging people to access services online, and virtually every public body now has its own Facebook page and uses Twitter.”  

Notes to Editors
1. The Mobile Operators Association (MOA) represents the four UK mobile network operators – EE (the company that runs EE, Orange & T-Mobile in the UK), O2, Three, and Vodafone – on radio frequency (RF) health and safety, and related town planning issues associated with the use of mobile phone technology.
2. The Planning (General Development) (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 (S.R. 2013 No. 96) comes into operation on 30th April 2013.