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Mobile networks reaffirm mast best practice commitments in Northern Ireland

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Commenting on the announcement, Mike Dolan, spokesman for the Federation of the Electronics Industry (FEI) which represents Northern Ireland's mobile phone operators, said:

"It is disappointing that the Executive appears to have ignored its own policy that Northern Ireland must have a cutting edge telecommunications infrastructure to compete effectively in the global economy. By imposing full planning procedures on all telecommunications development the relative attractiveness of Northern Ireland as a location for inward investment could be reduced and future job creation jeopardised.

"Business in Northern Ireland could be seriously disadvantaged if it cannot access continuously improved mobile services. The mobile phone operators are committed to improving existing services and delivering 3G services to meet demand in Northern Ireland but are concerned that delivery of these services could be delayed by the new planning regime."

Mr Dolan added:

"The operators have developed ten commitments to best practice which will enable public concerns over radio base station siting to be addressed directly."

Key elements of the operators' ten commitments are improved transparency, more publicly available information, and improved communication and consultation with local authorities and the public.

"Mobile services are hugely popular, and bring immense benefits to the one million Northern Irish people who use them. To work effectively, they need sufficient infrastructure in the right places," said Mr Dolan.

"We need to find the right balance between environmental responsibility and ensuring that the people of Northern Ireland have access to mobile services."

Note to editors

The mobile phone operators have pledged to:

  • develop, with other stakeholders, clear standards and procedures to deliver significantly improved consultation with local communities
  • participate in obligatory pre-rollout and pre-application consultation with local planning authorities
  • publish clear, transparent and accountable criteria and cross-industry agreement on site sharing, against which progress will be published regularly
  • establish professional development workshops on technological developments within telecommunications for local authority officers and elected members
  • deliver, with the UK Government, a database of information available to the public on radio base stations
  • assess all radio base stations for international (ICNIRP) compliance for public exposure, and produce a programme for ICNIRP compliance for all radio base stations as recommended by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones
  • provide, as part of planning applications for radio base stations, a certification of compliance with ICNIRP public exposure guidelines
  • provide specific staff resources to respond to complaints and enquiries about radio base stations, within ten working days
  • begin financially supporting the UK Government's independent scientific research programme on mobile communications health issues
  • develop standard supporting documentation for all planning submissions whether full planning or prior approval

FEI represents the five mobile phone operators operating within the UK
(BT Cellnet, Hutchison 3G, One2One, Orange, and Vodafone).

For more information, please contact:
Christine Jude (020 7331 2029, 020 7331 2029, 07714 241924, 07714 241924)
Jonathan Rose, PR Manager Orange, Northern Ireland 07970 777727, 07970 777727
Philip Robinson, Regional Community Affairs Manager, Hutchison 3G 07711 844554, 07711 844554

61% of UK adults access the internet from mobiles

Mobile phones cannot work without a network of base stations (masts). There are approximately 52,500 base station sites (excluding microcells) in the UK. Only a third of these are large, free standing masts. A YouGov survey for MOA (Sept 2014) showed that nearly 8 out of 10 people recognise the link between masts and good mobile coverage. Mobile telecommunications are vital for the UK’s economic competitiveness and in promoting social inclusion. There are now 89.9 million mobile subscriptions in the UK. In Q1 2015 61 per cent of UK adults used their mobile phones for internet access. Tablet ownership is 54% of UK households.

No Established Health Effects

Mobile phones operate by using radio waves, similar to those that have been widely used for decades, for example in radio, TV and radar signals. A large number of studies over the last two decades have found no clear evidence of adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones or from phone masts.