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The Mobile Operators Association (MOA) wants the government to make it easier - and more affordable - for 2G, 3G and 4G providers to install mobile masts on private land.

After a Deloitte report found that rental costs for mobile sites are 30 times those faced by electricity and water companies, the MOA has called for reform of the Electronic Communications Code.

The MOA - which represents Three, O2, EE and Vodafone - believes up to £270 million could be unlocked for investment if the code is updated to ensure "fair and proportionate rents".

This money could potentially be ploughed back into UK mobile networks, in order to improve mobile broadband coverage, speeds and reliability.

John Cooke, Executive Director of the MOA, said the rental reductions from applying the water or energy regimes to telecoms providers would be sufficient to increase outdoor coverage to around 99 per cent of the country.

This would result in an economic benefit of up to £1.4 billion over ten years for those rural communities with limited or no coverage, he claimed.

"Alternatively, the rental reductions could be used to invest in greater capacity, more innovative services or a combination of these," Mr Cooke stated.

He added that if the government was to move towards this type of payment model, it would need to do so with certain qualifications.

One would be that network operators do not object to paying "fair rents" to wholesale infrastructure providers, to provide them with a reasonable rate of return on their investment in their infrastructure.

"The other qualification would be that for other sites, moving to a regime such as outlined in the Deloitte report probably could not happen overnight, but would need to be phased in over a transitional period," Mr Cooke added.

He noted that the government has a stated commitment to making the UK the best-connected country in the world.

"The Government’s Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy also makes clear that 'if the UK is to remain a leading digital economy it needs the right digital communications infrastructure in place to meet user demand, support economic growth, build a digital society and allow new technology to flourish'," Mr Cooke stated.

He claimed this is the litmus test against which reform of the Electronic Communications Code should be judged.

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