3G antenna invasion quelled by MoD boffins

Nimbys of the world rejoice...

Nimbys of the world rejoice...

The UK government's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) has launched itself into the commercial world with an ambitious bid to force 3G operators into sharing phone antenna. DERA's brand new private sector arm, QinetiQ, claims it can halve the current number of masts in the UK and Europe - welcome news for many worried homeowners. Different frequencies mean operators currently have to leave a one metre gap between antenna, but QinetiQ's technology will allow a single antenna to receive and transmit signals from all five 3G operators at once. Clive Harding, technical leader of QinetiQ's knowledge information systems group, said: "The ability to share a single antenna will reduce clutter and environmental impact, while easing health and safety concerns." Vodafone, the UK's largest mobile operator, has already expressed an interest. Vodafone's Jane Frapwell told silicon.com: "Anything that avoids impacting visually on communities has got to be a good thing." In March, the UK's Department for the Environment released new guidelines encouraging mast and site sharing. From 23 July even stronger regulations will come into force in Scotland, forcing mobile firms to apply for full planning permission before erecting antenna. Currently Vodafone shares just 25 per cent of its 1,000 UK mast sites with antenna from other operators. Although rarely known for its work outside the MoD, the perception of QinetiQ as a defence company is something its chief executive Sir John Chisholm is determined to fight. "We don't see ourselves primarily as a defense business, we see ourselves as a technology business," he said. "The centre of our business will still be research and technology for the Ministry of Defence - but that gives us the intellectual property which we can lever into wider markets." Using technology developed by the army during the Kosovan crisis, QinetiQ has built a mobile base station which can be installed in trains, planes or boats. The company is also involved in a project with the Public Records Office to publish the entire 1901 census online.