There is renewed interest in how church spires could be used to boost mobile and broadband coverage in rural areas, under an agreement between the UK government and the Church of England.
The BBC writes:
‘Getting access to suitable sites, particularly in rural areas, has been a real challenge for mobile operators, so any initiative aimed at improving this will be welcomed by the industry,’ said Matthew Howett, principal analyst at research firm Assembly…
The government said commercial arrangements would be made locally between dioceses or parishes and mobile operators and broadband providers but gave no further details. Two-thirds of Anglican churches are in rural areas and their location at the heart of their communities means they are well-placed to help deliver improved mobile connectivity, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said. Secretary of State Matt Hancock said: ‘Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country. This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th Century building can help make Britain fit for the future, improving people’s lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas.’
There are already about 120 examples of broadband and mobile services being delivered from parish churches across the country, according to the Church of England. These take a variety of forms – from wireless transmitters in spires to aerials, satellite dishes and cables. The equipment is used to boost both voice and data coverage. The Dioceses of Norwich and Chelmsford have been signed up to programmes for at least five years. The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, said: ‘Encouraging churches to improve connectivity will help tackle two of the biggest issues rural areas face – isolation and sustainability. Our work has significantly improved rural access to high-speed broadband.’
The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James, said using parish churches ‘creatively’ would enhance their value to communities….