Govt puts off major reform of mobile tower rules

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Govt puts off major reform of mobile tower rules

Plans to consult further.

The government has deferred its decision on the most controversial changes to mobile antenna and tower deployment rules it proposed last year.

Communications minister Mitch Fifield today said only 10 out of 21 planned reforms would be implemented, with the rest set for a further period of consultation.

Among the proposals that have been delayed are one that would have allowed larger-diameter radiocommunications and satellite dishes in rural and industrial areas, and for antennas to protrude an extra 2m above the buildings they are installed on.

Also delayed are proposals:

  • To allow the height of towers to be extended
  • For NBN Co to install “lens antennas” without needing to seek local government approval
  • For street cabinets to be installed near fixed wireless towers, and
  • To enable carriers to double the volume of equipment installed on a site.

The decision to put all these reforms out for further consultation means that the biggest changes floated by the government have not eventuated.

Of the few proposals that did get across the line, carriers will be able to disguise antenna arrays and towers more easily, and install larger solar arrays as a power source.

Omni-directional antennas will also be easier for carriers to install, with the rules relaxed to allow them to be installed in residential and commercial areas.

The rules cover what items are considered “low-impact facilities”. They allow carriers to bypass local and state planning laws in order to roll out networks and network upgrades more quickly.

“Powers and immunities regulations allow telcos to install and maintain network infrastructure, such as pillars and antennas, quickly and cost effectively,” Fifield said in a statement.

“These arrangements ensure telcos can upgrade mobile coverage and install fast broadband services without the delays imposed by protracted development approvals processes.”

But Fifield noted there was a need to balance what carriers and communities wanted, and this - together with concerns raised in the initial consultation - meant deferring a decision on the most controversial reform plans.

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