Vodafone UK says Church of England is charging too much money for use of spires

The Salisbury Cathedral is featured in this photo. | Wikimedia Commons/Antony McCallum

Telecommunications company Vodafone U.K. has claimed that the Church of England is charging too much money for the use of spires to boost mobile connectivity in rural areas.

In February, the Church reportedly agreed to rent out church spires to help improve mobile and broadband coverage in rural communities across the U.K.

As part of the agreement between the Church and the government, telecommunications companies will install wireless transmitters as well as towers, plus aerials, satellite dishes and fiber cables on church spires.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said that the location of Anglican churches are suitable for boosting mobile connectivity because two-thirds of the buildings are in rural areas.

However, Vodafone U.K. has lamented that implementing the deal has been difficult because churches are charging exorbitant prices for the use of spires.

"It looked like they were trying to help the community but really it has been about monetising the steeple," said Kyle Prigg, head of networks at Vodafone U.K., as reported by Premier.

At least 100 spires out of 16,000 are currently being used to boost mobile connectivity. A Church of England spokesman said that the denomination "centrally does not negotiate contracts for installing masts," and it is up to the governing body of a parish to handle the negotiations.

The U.K. government has stated back in February that the commercial arrangements would be made between local dioceses and telecommunications companies.

The Church has noted that it is currently in talks with potential third parties to assist parishes in the use of spires, but no deal has been made as of yet.

The spokesman for the Church further stated that a group has been assigned to draft a guidance that will provide instructions to parishes and dioceses on how to facilitate the provision of connectivity to rural areas.

Digital analysts have raised concerns about the difficulty of getting access to suitable sites in rural areas.

"Getting access to suitable sites, particularly in rural areas, has been a real challenge for mobile operators, so any initiative aimed at improving this will be welcomed by the industry," said Matthew Howett, principal analyst at research firm Assembly, according to BBC.

"What's not clear, though, is what the commercial relationship looks like. There have been many stories of rural land owners effectively holding operators to ransom for access to some sites, which has slowed down rollout and added considerably to the cost," he added.