There is growth and expansion of the telecommunication sector in cities, which however pose numerous health and safety concerns; hence, the need to regulate their siting.

For the attention of: City planning officials, telecommunication companies and communities, Public Health researchers and practitioners.

The problem: There is increasing number of telecommunication masts in urban areas across Africa, which pose several health and safety risks to residents. In response to the risks, countries have adopted precautionary standards and regulations to streamline their deployment and installation across its cityscape.

The increasing demand for telecommunication services in Ghanaian cities has contributed to the expansion of the telecommunication. To regulate the siting of masts towards orderliness, there are several locational planning standards. There is however little research on the extent of regulatory compliance by operators in the siting of masts.

What we did and why: We examined the distribution and the level of compliance of installed masts by telecommunication operators to the locational planning standards adopted by Ghana. This was necessary considering the numerous health and safety risks they pose.

What our study adds:  Similar to other countries across the globe, Ghana has adopted precautionary guidelines and regulations to manage the deployment of telecommunication masts and towers. In spite of these guidelines, we found cases of the siting of telecommunication masts in neighbourhoods not in line with the set locational standards and regulations. We found that  90 percent of masts installed in the study communities do not comply with the minimum setback to the nearest building. Our research also indicated that only 11 percent of residents were consulted before the masts in their neighbourhood were installed. The reasons for non-compliance are not well explored in the research literature to date. Our study indicates that further research, in other cities and countries, would be useful to explore issues of operator compliance to the regulations for siting telecommunication masts.

Implications for city policy and practice: There is the urgent need for city authorities to integrate telecommunication infrastructure into future land use plans. The study therefore calls for well-planned land use planning regime where the siting of telecommunication mast is done before physical development catches up with peri-urban neighbourhoods.

In addition there are four main areas where city authorities and regulators need to focus:

  • Regulatory agencies urgently need to address high level of non-compliance of the regulations that guide siting of telecommunication masts by ensuring strict enforcement of the standards and guidelines.

  • Improvements are needed to the monitoring systems of the regulatory agencies through periodic inspections and monitoring of sites before and after installation of masts.

  • Better education of residents and companies on the details of locational planning standards.
  • Better location of masts is required to promote safety and aesthetics. This could be achieved through the collaborative effort between the government, regulatory agencies and all relevant stakeholders.

Full research article: Assessing the level of compliance of telecommunication masts to locational planning standards towards harmonious and orderly city growth by Emmanuel Amponsah, Stephen Appiah Takyi, Michael Osei Asibey & Owusu Amponsah