Posted by: Anna Powell
Public Sector Information Holder: Ofcom
Information Asset: Sitefinder - mobile phone mast locations in the UK
Ofcom currently allow the public to search for mobile phone masts online (http://www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk/). However, it's only possible to search for a single postcode at a time, and the results are only displayed on a map - not given in reusable format.
In September 2006, the Information Commissioner ordered Ofcom to publish the Sitefinder dataset in a reusable format (http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/pressreleases/2006/ic_rules_against_ofcom_on_mobile_phone_base_stations_13090%E2%80%A6.pdf). Ofcom appealed to the Information Tribunal, which in September 2007 upheld the Information Commissioner's decision. In April 2008, Ofcom appealed to the High Court, which dismissed Ofcom's appeal. Ofcom is now taking measures to appeal further.
A recent Freedom of Information request to release the dataset was rejected by Ofcom (http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/map_coordinates_for_all_mobile_p) on the grounds that it would help criminals and infringe the mobile operators' intellectual property rights - both reasons rejected by the Information Commissioner in the original review.
In the US, mobile phone mast locations are freely available in database form, and various useful applications have been built.
My ideal solution
I would like Ofcom to release the locations of mobile phone base stations in the UK in reusable form with latitude/longitude info.
What I would do
Use the locations to build a mobile phone mast locator, for use on mobile phones in areas where reception is poor or non-existent.
If you are on a mountainside in poor weather, and need to call the emergency services - or just staying in a house with poor reception - it would be very useful to know that walking 50 yards north would improve your reception.