SOCIETY: BUILT ENVIRONMENT
BUILT ENVIRONMENT MOBILE’S HERITAGE DISAPPEARS AS DEVELOPERS LOOK TO BUILDINGS DESIGNED WITH WIRELESS IN MIND WITH COMMERCIAL MOBILE CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF OPERATION IN THE UK, MUCH OF THE EARLIEST-DEPLOYED TECHNOLOGY HAS DISAPPEARED AND THERE IS A REAL RISK THAT IMPORTANT MOBILE HERITAGE WILL BE LOST, WRITES GEORGE MALIM. According to UK regulator Ofcom there were approximately 54,000 base stations in operation in the UK in 2011, the last year for which it has been able to provide figures after operators stopped supplying it with site data. That figure demonstrates the sheer scale of a roll-out that, from a standing start, saw a basic, voice-oriented analogue service offered by two operators develop into a highly competitive market for digital services delivery.
“THE MOST PERVASIVE ARTEFACT IS THE MOBILE PHONE BUT THERE IS VERY LITTLE INFRASTRUCTURE BEING KEPT”
That industry is now mature and looking towards the fifth generation of mobile technology. However, much of its past is being swept away. Unlike other, earlier utilities, mobile sites were constructed quickly and cost effectively so there aren’t the ornate plant buildings associated with sewerage, power generation or gas distribution that Victorian utility companies built.