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Written Statement - Mobile in Wales

Julie James, Minister for Skills and Science

Mobile phone connectivity is becoming increasingly important as more people use mobile devices to carry out everyday tasks such as banking, entertainment and keeping in touch with friends and relatives.

There are also economic benefits to having usable and reliable mobile coverage, it allows people to keep in touch on the move and allows machines to share real time information.

The future will see the introduction of 5G mobile technology and the development of the internet of things where machines and sensors will use mobile connectivity to transfer even more information.

Ensuring Wales has the mobile connectivity to allow people and ‘things’ to connect reliably wherever they are located will become essential.

Last week I hosted a round table meeting with representatives of the mobile industry, Ofcom, local planning officers and Welsh Government officials to explore how government, the regulator and industry can work together to improve phone services across Wales.

It was a very constructive meeting and a number of practical next steps were agreed.

On planning reform the mobile operators and infrastructure providers agreed to provide evidence to inform ongoing work to assess the merits of changing the existing planning regime, in particular around Permitted Development Rights, to ensure that any changes considered would be tailored to the Welsh landscape and population patterns.

The use of public assets for mobile infrastructure was discussed, in particular how to make it easier for mobile infrastructure providers to contact and work with public sector land owners. I have asked officials to work with site owners and industry to help make it simpler for public assets to be accessed for mobile infrastructure.

It was agreed that further work was necessary to understand the impact of a reduction in non-domestic rates for new mobile sites on investment decisions and to assess how many new sites could be included.

The discussion also explored changes to regulation by Ofcom, support for innovation in mobile infrastructure to reach very rural areas and the importance of connectivity along transport routes.

In light of the discussion and in recognition of the further work that needs to be undertaken I intend to publish a mobile action plan for improving mobile connectivity in Wales and to provide a road map to achieving it.

It is essential that we work with the mobile industry, Ofcom and other arms of government to ensure that Wales gets the mobile coverage it needs.