Memorandum submitted by the Federation
of the Electronics Industry
This briefing has been prepared by the Mobile
Telecoms Advisory Group (MTAG), which represents the UK mobile
phone operators (BT Cellnet, One2One, Orange, Vodafone and the
new third generation licence holder Hutchison 3G). MTAG is a special
interest group within FEI.
The growth of the mobile communications sector
has been one of the UK's great industrial success stories. Since
commercial services were first launched in 1985, their uptake
has been nothing short of phenomenal, particularly in the past
Key to this approach has been the development
of a competitive market, licensing designed to ensure and promote
competition and deliver low consumer prices, and a planning regime
that has enabled the continual development of networks to ensure
they support the demands of the UK's 40 million mobile phone users.
The Government has committed itself "to
developing the UK as the best place in the world for e-commerce."
The success of this strategy will depend in part on the continued
success of mobile.
Mobile communications are now fundamental to
business operations, individual lifestyles and the welfare of
the national economy. The benefits of communication between people
and not just places have been sought by those throughout the country,
in rural and urban environments alike.
More than 70 per cent of the total population
of the UK (and 80 per cent of 16-44 year olds), 84 per cent of
medium businesses, and 54 per cent of small businesses, own mobile
phones. 71 per cent of all households have access to one, and
almost 10 per cent of users no longer use fixed lines. The past
two years have seen more than 45,000 people buying mobile phones
every day. 85 per cent penetration is foreseen by 2004.
Such popularity and growth has seen the sector
become increasingly key to the UK economy, contributing some £5.3
billion to UK GDP annually, £1.3 billion in tax revenue,
and in excess of £22 billion in third generation licence
fees in 2000 alone. Moreover, the sector employs around 164,000
people directly and indirectly.
Mobile's impact on society is already huge but
may only be the tip of the iceberg. The prospects for mobile to
impact on almost every aspect of life are only just being developed.
Growing sophistication in mobile communications will see benefits
in areas such as the following:
access to medical and emergency services;
rural developmentin terms
of countering the impact of isolation from key national infrastructure
such as banks, bus routes and cable, and improving access to otherwise
efficient use of transport; and
more access to educational resources.
Mobile communications will not work without
the requisite network infrastructure. This is why there is a need
for base stations (sometimes called masts). Base stations link
the mobile handset to the rest of the mobile and fixed phone network.
Because the radio signals used to provide this link only have
a limited range, the user cannot be too far away from the base
station in order for a call connection to be made.
Moreover, base stations can only support a limited
number of calls at any one time. This means more are needed where
there is greater demand for service. The current reality is that
with such huge growth in demand in such a short time, all four
existing mobile networks are often unable to cope in built-up
areas and on busy transport arteries, and there still remain many
rural areas where coverage is limited and reception poor.
The operators' existing and third generation
licences also stipulate high levels of coverage and that all reasonable
demands for service be met. This is why the operators are working
so hard to develop their networks. Without them, the services
will not work and licence obligations will not be met.
Although the recent Stewart Report, other major
scientific reviews, and regulatory bodies around the world continue
to conclude that, on the current weight of scientific evidence,
there are no adverse health effects from mobile technology, this
issue has remained in the public spotlight. This is because of
the complexity of both the science and the technology, perceptions
driven by the media, and the development of networks currently
taking place in the local community.
The mobile communications industry recognises
that public concern exists and is committed to addressing this
concern as transparently and openly as possible. To this end,
the industry has:
ensured leaflet and website information
on mobile phone health issues is widely available;
provided financial support for individual
committed to ensuring compliance
with international (ICNIRP) public exposure guidelines;
recruited dedicated operator community
liaison teams to address concerns relating to base stations;
engaged in a programme of dialogue
with key stakeholders across the UK;
launched training programmes in risk
communication skills for its staff;
expanded use of environmentally sensitive
base station solutions.
Some concerns have focused specifically on the
industry's network development activities and the impact of this
on the planning system. This issue is currently being addressed
by a Government consultation on telecommunications planning policy.
The mobile phone industry firmly believes that
the key to successfully addressing public concerns lies in improved
dialogue with the community based on communication and consultation.
Hence the industry is committed to undertaking
a package of initiatives, which it will deliver regardless of
the outcome of the Government's consultation, 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 Government, a database
of information available to the public on radio base stations;
access 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 Stewart group;
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 10 working days;
begin financially supporting the
Government's independent scientific research programme on mobile
communications health issues;
develop standard supporting documentation
for all planning submissions whether for full planning permission
or prior approval.
The industry believes these initiatives are
a better way to address public concerns than further restrictive
regulation, as the planning system is not equipped to assess health
concerns. Indeed, tighter planning rules could aggravate those
concerns by raising false expectations of a public veto on base
More restrictive regulation would certainly
make it harder for the industry to respond to the demand for service
being made by more than 40 million people in the UK, while placing
an added administrative burden on local planning authorities.
It would also undermine the competitive edge the UK has gained
in Europe through the swift uptake and development of mobile communications.
This is why the industry is moving forward with
this package of initiatives independently of the Government's
consultation. The industry believes they will ensure a balance
is maintained between safeguarding development of and access to
mobile services in the UK and the need for greater environmental