Memorandum submitted by Hutchison 3G
Mobile communications are now well established
as an integral part of modern society. They are fundamental to
business operations, individual lifestyles and the welfare of
the national economy. The operator's customers comprise more than
58 per cent of the total population of the UK. More than 40,000
people buy mobile phones every day.
This success has seen mobile communications
become a key sector of the UK economy, contributing in excess
of £22 billion in licence fees this year alone, some £6
billion to UK GDP annually, to the UK Exchequer in tax revenue,
and employing around 164,000 people directly and indirectly across
Hutchison 3G UK Limited (H3G) recognises that
there is public concern about the possible health effects of radio
base stations, notwithstanding statements on the current scientific
consensus by the National Radiological Protection Board, the Independent
Expert Group on Mobile Phones, and advice of the World Health
Organisation. Policy relating to possible health effects is a
matter for the Department of Health, based on expert scientific
advice. The local planning authority role should be guided by
A move to extend full planning would be fundamentally
flawed because the planning system is not designed to assess possible
health risks. Indeed, extending full planning is likely to aggravate
concerns by raising false expectations of a public veto towards
telecommunications development, resulting in increased community
Extending full planning will leave mobile networks
increasingly unable to meet the demands of millions of customers.
All this will put at risk the Government's commitment "to
developing the UK as the best place in the world for e-commerce"an
outcome dependent on third generation and other new services.
The guidance should positively discriminate
in favour of site sharing so as to reduce the need for new sites
and minimise the opportunity for economic delay in the infrastructure
deployment for the new operator. The operator's intention to improve
the transparency and speed of access for site sharing, as set
out in the FEI submission, is essential to H3G's rollout strategy.
H3G looks forward to the support of the Government in improving
the ability of the operators to site share and ensuring that the
Key Performance Indicators are met.
Conclusion, extending full planning will not
resolve the health issue, but will adversely affect the UK economy
and the nation's leading position in delivering the e-society.
Increased concerns over the alleged health aspects
of mobile telecommunication technologies and separate concerns
over the process of planning determination for telecommunications
development have led to a Government review of the planning process
and the publication by the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions (DETR) of a Consultation Paper (CP).
The CP considers whether a move to extend full
planning controls on all telecommunications infrastructure would
alleviate public concerns regarding the health aspects and, separately,
the siting and appearance of telecommunications development.
H3G has considered the issue in detail and does
not believe that a move to extend full planning controls would
resolve either issue.
This response explores the issue in detail and
develops the reasons for this conclusion. H3G supports the response
submitted by the Federation of the Electronics Industry (FEI),
on behalf of the UK's five mobile network telecommunication operators.
That response proposes alternative means to resolve public concerns
within the framework of retained permitted development control.
3.1 The Information Society; the benefits
of mobile communications to the UK economy
H3G won one of the third generation mobile licences
to run public telecommunications services and to provide mobile
radio communication services and is now investing in planning
and deploying its network infrastructure throughout the UK.
H3G endorses the Government's general policy
to develop telecommunications competition and to widen the availability
of advanced communications services and recognises the balance
Government must adopt with its commitment to environmental objectives.
Mobile communications are now well established
as an integral part of modern society. They are fundamental to
business operations, individual lifestyles and the welfare of
the national economy. Currently, more than 58 per cent of the
UK population use mobile communications. More than 40,000 people
buy mobile phones every day.
As the information age enters a new millennium,
users of data and multimedia communications services will expect
and demand that these same services will continue to be available
to them at any location. Multimedia services allow the delivery
of a rich variety of audio, visual and text-based information
in addition to voice and simple data.
The development of mobile communications networks
is a key source of information delivery and an important stimulant
of the IT revolution. Furthermore, the role of mobile communications
networks will continually develop with the evolution of current
telephony standards and the move into third generation networks.
H3G firmly believes that mobile services will
further establish themselves as important components of the digital
communication infrastructure. It is clear that the history of
the take-up of new services through the current mobile phone network
operators strongly suggests that demand for new broadband services
will be very high and is likely to outpace any forecasts that
might be made.
3.2 Third generation services: the new "e-society"
The Government recently completed the auction
of the licences for the third generation of mobile phones using
UMTS (wide broadband) technology. H3G, the UK's only pure third
generation operator, will make available to its customers services,
via UMTS technology that will revolutionise both the mobile phone
and the Internet. These services will bring together telecommunication,
multimedia and IT, to connect the consumer with people, information
and services, on the move.
H3G believes that the opportunity these services
will provide is in enhancing lifestyle; making tasks simpler and
enjoyable, creating personal liberation and improving the value
of time. It is predicted that by 2003 many more people will be
accessing the Internet from mobile devices than from fixed personal
computers. Currently, there are over 300 million mobile phones
and 400 million PCs worldwide. In three years, whilst the number
of PC's will have risen to 500 million, the number of Internet
compatible phones could have reached 1 billion. H3G agrees that
in the near future mobile devices will be playing a major role
in the provision of consumer access to Internet services.
The applications will be important for the small
and medium sized business sector who will be able to exploit benefits
in such areas as supply chain economics, remote staff and customer
support and new economy vertical markets.
The changes being brought about by the Information
Age in the increasing convergence of information systems and telecommunications
will extend to Government, as it will seek new opportunities to
transforming education in the development
of knowledge and skills;
widening access for the benefit of
promoting competitiveness for the
benefit of customers, jobs and the economy;
fostering quality in the range of
accessibility of services;
modernising Government to provide
better, more convenient services.
With this flexibility, H3G contends that third
generation communications will have many advantages over the traditional
fixed line services and current mobile telephony services, in
providing modern high speed digital communications technology.
H3G believes that policy issues in relation to 3G mobile communications
must reflect its critical role in the overall delivery of digital
Of particular importance to H3G, as the new
entrant without the economic and practical benefits of an existing
base station infrastructure, is to ensure that we can provide
customers with the benefits of third generation services, efficiently,
effectively and within the timeframe of our licence requirements
and competitively and equally with our competitors.
Mobile communication networks form a vital part
of the necessary digital communications infrastructure, and are
of "national importance" in keeping with other forms
of infrastructure provision. They are not simply an alternative
means by which some services may be delivered but will be the
driver of a whole range of new services and business opportunities,
which would not otherwise exist.
4. REVIEW OF
4.1 How a network is planned
For the "consumer" to benefit from
all these services, it is vital to recognise the reasons for this
and not to take for granted that it would automatically remain
true, regardless of extra regulation and restrictions, which may
The primary reason why the current network operators
have been able to achieve such high standards of coverage and
capacity is that the Government has broadly struck the right balance
between different policy objectives by providing operators with
permitted development rights. These rights have allowed operators
to roll out their networks speedily and effectively to meet customer
demand and licence requirements.
In contemplating communications network development,
it is important to understand the principles of how a network
The technological characteristics of communications
technology, customer demand/usage patterns and the availability
of suitable land/sites mean that the freedom available in the
construction of a radio networks is limited.
Antennas are used to transmit and receive radio
signals to and from a handset. These antennas may be fixed to
a mast structure, mounted on existing buildings or on other suitable
structures. The necessary height of where the antennas are to
be located is a function of the area required to be coveredknown
as the "cell"and its topography, plus other factors
affecting the signal such as building height and tree cover. In
3G UMTS systems the principle is to reuse the same frequency on
every cell. In this way we can achieve large amounts of capacity
from the available spectrum, which is essential if the benefits
of UMTS are to be realised to the full.
Initially, the radio networks are configured
with relatively large cells, with antennas located in elevated
positions. As demand increases within an existing cell, "cell
splitting" is necessary where additional base stations are
required for each newer smaller cell.
By understanding these basic principles of mobile
communication network planning it is clear that as the demand
increases, there is an additional need for base stations.
As part of its commitment to the consumer, OFTEL,
the telecommunications regulator for the UK, issues performance
indicators to reflect the network quality of the current mobile
networks operated within the UK. All current and future operators,
including H3G, will be maintaining a balance between:
satisfying licence conditions to
ensure customer demand is met;
ensuring call quality and service
requirements meet with Regulator approval;
environmental concerns over base
station developments are satisfactorily managed.
H3G is keen to ensure that the proposed revised
DETR planning procedures reflect positively on mobile communications
development and take account of the extensive benefits of improved
communications, which offer a number of significant social and
4.2 Why extending full planning control will
4.2.1 Health and planning control issues;
making the fundamental distinction
The public concerns relating to the siting of
base stations stem from two fundamental and different issues.
The first relates to the planning process by which certain telecommunications
development is determined. The second relates to the perceived
impact that radio wave energy emanating from the radio antenna
might have on human health. The emission of radio waves is a characteristic
shared by other sources of radio broadcasts, however the concern
seems to be limited to mobile phone base stations.
Both the report of the Independent Expert Group
on Mobile Phones (the Stewart Report) and this CP adopt the position
that any health risk associated with base stations is satisfactorily
dealt with by technical standards and that issues of health should
not be managed by the land use planning system. H3G strongly endorses
However, both then go on to describe proposed
changes to the planning system that will be interpreted by communities
as being made in order to deal with their concerns over health.
Only if public concerns over health issues are dealt with through
a separate and suitable forum of risk communication, will it be
possible to introduce a development control system that achieves
the provision of necessary communication services and the protection
of the visual landscape.
The distinction between health issues and planning
considerations must be fundamental to the processes applied to
development control. At the present time, and notwithstanding
the statements that planning is not the forum to deal with health
issues, many of the proposals put forward in the CP on changes
to the development control system are in response to, and will
be seen by the public as a response to, health concerns.
4.2.2 How to address planning control issues
The creation of radio networks across the country
is necessary to maintain a lead in the provision of mobile communications
services for the consumer, comparative with other countries.
Greater regulation will impair competition.
It is not realistic to believe that regulation can be imposed
without any cost in terms of access to market and competitiveness,
particularly to H3G who is a new entrant without any existing
network on which to share and use in the construction of a network.
It must be recognised that a third generation
network will take time to rollout and, although this process is
beginning, it must continue within a time frame that meets consumer
demand for service.
Most of the concerns currently being raised
are in connection with base station transmitters located in residential
and other built up areas. But it is these locations that the transmitters
must be sited in order to allow customers to access mobile services
inside their homes and other buildings. For very straightforward
technical reasons, it is not possible to place the transmitters
in more sparsely populated areas and still maintain the same level
of in-building coverage that is required. This will apply to 3G
services more than to GSM 2G as it utilises a part of the spectrum
that makes penetration of buildings even more difficult.
H3G recognises that the existence of permitted
development rights in England has caused problems in the past
as local residents have not always previously felt engaged in
the planning system or felt able to engage the local authority
or industry with representations over proposed development.
The introduction of consultation measures with
the revised Prior Approval regulations in April 1999 has helped
significantly in engaging local people with the process.
There can be no doubt that if full planning
were introduced for all future development, including radio base
sites located on roof tops, other mast structures and sharing
arrangements and upgrades, the Government's objectives for the
e-society, would be seriously jeopardised.
4.2.3 Measures to address the planning control
Subjecting all telecommunications development
to full planning control will not produce a satisfactory outcome.
The rationale to produce processes to ensure
that the amenity impact of communications networks is minimised
do not correspond to the processes involved in "full planning".
There are, however improvements that could be made to the existing
permitted development process that would address such concerns.
The key is a process involving the local planning
authority, the elected members and the community in a manner that
is effective in achieving the final outcome.
The aim is to operate a development control
process that will strike a realistic balance between the interests
of the industry and the community, without causing delay to the
consumer in the provision of mobile communication services.
H3G supports the response submitted by the FEI
and the proposals developed in the paper to resolve public concerns
within the framework of retained permitted development control.
The aims of the proposals are:
To provide greater opportunity for better quality
of public consultationthe FEI sets out commitments that
the industry is willing to address to meet this objective.
To ensure reasonable certainty in the planning
determination processthe certainty of the permitted development
scheme enables operators to programme and finance infrastructure
rollout. Extending full planning determination for all telecommunications
development will increase the uncertainty and delay in planning
and operating a network, thereby not meeting customer coverage
and service expectations.
To support mast and site sharing opportunitiesthe
following section 4.2.5 explores this area in detail. This is
of particular importance to H3G, as the new entrant without the
economic and practical benefits of an existing base station infrastructure.
4.2.5 Mast sharing
H3G is committed to the use of mast and site
sharing where this will reduce the proliferation of mobile communications
infrastructure. However, if such sharing is to be widely used
it must be made possible to get new antenna installed in the same
time frame as the construction of new mast structures. This is
especially true if, as a result of changes to the development
control system, operators are required to mast share in order
to provide service.
H3G supports the position in the FEI submission
of industry commitment to improving the process and transparency
of site sharing. The success of this commitment will be dependent
Existing operators being encouraged not to use
the incentive of poor internal administration as options of delay
and high sharing costs.
Landowners being provided with incentives to
support sharing as against the financial benefit of allowing an
additional mast structure to be built.
The regulatory process recognising the benefits
of mast sharing as against the impact on amenity costs.
Without co-operation from the mast structure
owners and landowners, H3G will put into a competitively disadvantaged
position. It has no existing network of sites and therefore the
balance of power in terms of mutual sharing lies with the existing
H3G believes that to encourage mast/structure
sharing, allowance should be made within the guidance/legislation
Permit "small" incremental increases
in structure height to accommodate sharing, which would include
the extension of enclosure facilities and appropriate cabin requirements.
Encourage public sector agencies, existing radio communication
organisations, etc, to be site providers for telecommunications
The removal of legislative restrictions on the
number of network operator owned base stations on a single building.
These restrictions were imposed at a time when most base stations
structures were far more visible than is so today. With the advent
of 3G and the entrance of a new operator, there will be a reduction
in the number of premium sites should any restrictions apply.
4.2.6 The consideration of RF health on informing
There have been many debates and reviews over
the factors that should be taken into account when considering
communications development. Growing concerns about the alleged
health effects of mobile communications technologies has given
rise to a UK independent report into the "safety" of
the technology and pressure for the proposed introduction of legislation,
through the planning development control system, to "protect"
The inquiry conducted for the UK Government
by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, chaired by Sir
William Stewart (Stewart Report), recognises that there is no
substantiated evidence to suggest a link between the use of mobile
phones and long-term health effects, but H3G and the UK mobile
telecommunications industry recognise public concern.
The report makes a very clear conclusion;
"The balance of evidence to date does not
suggest mobile phone technologies put the health of the general
population of the UK at risk"
In addition, the Report also points out that;
"Indeed, the exposure received by people
living near to broadcast transmitters of high power output is
likely to be appreciably greater than that received by people
living near mobile phone base stations" (Page 33, para 4.2)
The overall conclusion of the Report in relation
to base stations is;
"We conclude that the balance of evidence
indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people
living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected
to be small fractions of the guidelines..."
The issue of supposed direct health effects
is one of the major drivers of the objections to the current permitted
development planning process. Visual intrusion, concerns about
property values and inability to participate in the development
process are separate concerns but have at their core the perceived
direct health impact.
As the CP recognises, "it is not for the
planning authority to replicate through the planning system controls
under the health and safety regime". In addition, the Government's
response to the Stewart report stated that if base stations meet
the requirements of ICNIRP then "it should not be necessary
for an authority, in processing an application, to consider health
Such clear advice will enable local planning
authorities to minimise "unsubstantiated views" and
make consistent and non-arbitrary decisions.
It follows that changing the planning system
will not in practice address the direct health concerns, although
this is precisely the expectation of many of those with these
Notwithstanding that there is no substantiated
evidence of direct health dangers from base stations that comply
with ICNIRP, there is still some concern from the public about
alleged health effects. These issues must be dealt with if there
is to be general acceptance of the necessary infrastructure to
deliver mobile communication services. As has been recognised
by this consultation the evaluation of safety issues has to be
done outside the planning process, through a government review
of risk and risk communication, with the objective of setting
out how risks are known, evaluated and communicated professionally
5. RESPONSE TO
The CP requires the completion of 10 consultation
H3G supports the Response of the FEI and will
not in this paper, respond to the ten questions. Further more,
it sees the implementation of the FEI response as a mechanism
of improving telecommunications development control for all.
The benefits of requiring individual planning
permission for base stations will be minimal in comparison with
the negative impact, which result from a delayed rollout. The
limited availability of sites to meet customer demand means that
there are unlikely to be significant differences in terms of loss
of amenity and visual intrusion due to the industry's commitments
to base station design and location.
Benefits are suggested for options 2, 3, 4,
6, 7 and 8 as a result of communities being able to participate
in the planning process. The issue of introducing a process that
gives only the appearance, but not the substance, of giving communities
significant influence on the location and design of base stations
must also be taken into account. The additional "costs"
to operators and local/central government when communities realise
the failure in the system to deliver their expectations of a veto,
must also be taken into account.
The main proposals set out in the consultation
paper to extend full planning control for telecommunications development
will, if implemented, result in government failing in its objective
of the UK leading the development of the "e-society".
As the new entrant, it is of strategic importance to H3G that
it is able to rollout its network and launches its service as
soon as feasibly possible, and (to the extent possible) on a level
playing field with the other operators. The imposition of increased
planning controls on telecommunications network development, will
adversely affect the balance between H3G and the other operators
and, therefore, the emergence of 3G services. Indeed, the importance
of the entry of a new operator was recognised by the Secretary
of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers:
"I welcome the introduction of a new entrant
to the UK mobile telecoms market. This has been a direct result
of the decision to auction five licences. Greater competition
will spur faster roll-out of more innovative services, as well
as delivering greater choice and lower prices to the consumer"
There is however improvements that can be made
to the existing permitted development process, as outlined in
the FEI Response that would provide additional amenity safeguards.
This would ensure that local communities and local planning authorities
are better informed and influence the realistic choices that are
available, without artificially raising expectations as to what
is and is not, possible.
7 March 2001