Northern Ireland receives broadband boost

Environment Minister Alex Attwood has announced changes to the planning system that will boost mobile phone and internet coverage in Northern Ireland

Changes to the planning system, which take effect from 30 April 2013, will boost mobile phone and internet coverage in Northern Ireland.

The changes will speed up the planning process as planning applications will no longer be needed to replace, alter or extend an existing mast or antenna or to install a limited number of antennas on an existing mast.

Development proposals for new masts will continue to be processed through the planning application system.

Changes vital for businesses

Alex Attwood said: “I want to see better coverage for mobiles and broadband. Citizens, communities and business want this. My plan will help this. Permitted development for mobile upgrades on masts and antennas will help mobile operators improve coverage.

“These changes will support the extension of telecommunications systems which are vital to people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

“This is part of a roll out of changes to permitted development rights in the past six months such as removing the need for planning permission for minor works like solar panels for schools, farms and businesses; small extensions for shops and offices; and proposals to ease planning rules for farmers.

“These changes complement my overall commitment to ensure that a responsive, cost effective and speedy planning system is transferred to councils in 2015. The DOE is helping lead in protecting the environment and in supporting economic recovery. These changes demonstrate this.”

Upgrading of networks

John Cooke, Executive Director from the Mobile Operators Association said: “The mobile operators are upgrading their networks here in Northern Ireland, both to deploy new 4G superfast mobile broadband, and to enhance existing 2G and 3G service.

“These changes will facilitate those improvements. Mobile devices are now ubiquitous. Good mobile connectivity benefits the wider economy, promotes social inclusion, is important in the delivery of public services and promotes sustainability.”

You can find out about Invest Northern Ireland’s ICT and eBusiness support on the Invest Northern Ireland website.