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Connectivity / 5G or not 5G? Mobile operator clarifies new mast plans

A MOBILE network operator has clarified that it is not intending to roll out 5G from a proposed new mast in Shetland’s Westside – despite planning documents initially suggesting otherwise.

The 25 metre high mast, which would host O2, could be built near to the pumping station in Walls.

A statement initially submitted to Shetland Islands Council’s planning department said that the operator requires the new tower in “order to provide improved coverage to existing customers, including introducing 5G technology”.

However, a spokesperson for O2 told Shetland News that the operator is not planning to deploy 5G from the mast.

“A third-party tower owner (Wireless Infrastructure Group) is leading this and the planning consultant they’re working with (Harlequin) have been instructed to remove references to 5G in the planning application and clarify the position with the planning authority in Shetland,” they said.

An updated planning statement has now been issued, and it says the mast may be used for 5G at a “later date when deemed necessary by the operator”.

5G is the much faster successor to 4G and it is being rolled out across the UK, starting in built-up areas. There is a hope that it could benefit connectivity in a range of sectors, including farming, transport and healthcare.

It has yet to reach Shetland – publicly at least. One of the contractors working on the HVDC interconnector cable project has trialled a private stand-alone 5G network on the construction site.

Sandness and Walls Community Council has been engaged on the Westside proposal and chairman Ian Walterson said a new mobile mast would be of “huge benefit” to the Walls area.

Regarding the visual appearance, the planning statement says: “On balance, while introducing a new form of development which will always have some degree of visual impact, by selecting a site adjacent to an existing degree of built environment this would ensure that the proposal is not viewed in isolation and within the visual context of the existing building.”.

The document is included in a prior notification submission ahead of a full planning application.

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