UK Church Spires Can Now Boost Phone Coverage and Wireless Network

Olive Hawkins
February 20, 2018

With almost two thirds of Anglican churches located in rural communities, it is hoped the agreement could help deliver the government's target of establishing "good quality" mobile connectivity across the country by 2022.

Mobile UK, the industry body representing EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, welcomed the announcement, stating that where spires and towners could be used to boost signal, the operators would "extend their use of churches to increase mobile coverage and capacity while respecting thechurch environment".

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said the agreement showed that medieval buildings can still help deliver 21st century services.

Village church locations at the heart of their communities mean they are often well placed to address internet blackspots.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, said: "We know that rural churches in particular have always served as a hub for their communities". According to The Telegraph over 100 churches are now used to improve network infrastructure, but under the new agreement a further 16,000 CofE buildings could house broadband and mobile equipment - including satellite dishes, aerials, and other wireless transmitters. The Dioceses of Norwich and Chelmsford have reportedly signed an agreement with leading telecom companies that last for at least five years.

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Building towers in rural areas has at times been very hard as landowners have resisted the intrusion from telecommunications companies.

The government is hoping that, with more than 16,000 church buildings across Europe, that more will now sign-up and help to expand the rural broadband scheme. The dioceses of Chelmsford and Norwich are two examples of places already using church buildings to improve connectivity. "Our work has significantly improved rural access to high-speed broadband".

"HM Government will do its best to provide coaching support for parishes and dioceses to help them develop the necessary skills needed to develop and progress digital infrastructure projects", the government added.

The government emphasised, though, that the deal comes with guidance to ensure the telcos' kit "does not impact on the character and architectural or historic significance of churches". Income from the deal is a possibility, "the potential for other mutually beneficial terms, to be agreed, such as sharing the cost of maintaining a church tower or spire on which equipment may be mounted", the accord says.

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