The UK government outlined plans to wipe out mobile signal blindspots in rural areas and the road network, as part of reforms to improve connectivity and speed rollout of 5G technology.

In a statement, the government said it was proposing law changes which would remove one of the “biggest barriers” to better connectivity in such areas, by reducing build time and costs for new infrastructure, “while protecting rural areas by minimising any visual impact”.

Under the plans, mobile operators will be allowed to construct new and existing masts up to 5 metres taller and 2 metres wider than currently permitted. The range of masts will, therefore increase, allowing them to fit more equipment so coverage can be equally shared.

The proposed change adds to a government drive to deliver a £1 billion Shared Rural Network, aimed at ensuring all areas of the country can access 4G. The government believes the latest plans will provide incentives for mobile companies to improving existing masts over building new ones, while rural communities will not require as many masts to “take full advantage of 5G-connected technology”.

On roads, the government aims to improve mobile coverage by allowing building-based masts to be placed near highways.

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Today we are setting out plans to make it easier for mobile firms to transform connectivity in the countryside and propel villages and towns out of the digital dark ages.”

In a separate statement, Bjorn Odenhammer, CTO Networks and Managed Services at Ericsson UK and Ireland, welcomed the announcement, stating the proposals were “practical, targeted measures that could spur much quicker rollout of mobile coverage in these historically under-served areas”.