Research has revealed that around five percent of UK households do not have access to superfast broadband, and ten percent of the UK does not have reliable mobile phone coverage. The UK government has committed to achieving good-quality mobile connectivity across the UK by 2022. In order to reach this target, the government has turned to biblical measures.
Under an agreement between the UK government and the Church of England, church spires could be used to boost mobile and broadband coverage in rural areas.
The agreement encourages churches to sign up, but they must still negotiate planning permission with local councils.
Digital analysts have encouraged the development. Speaking to the BBC, Matthew Howett, Principal Analyst at research firm Assembly, said: "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.
"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."
In the rural Essex village of Great Maplestead, residents are already enjoying improved wireless internet connections. From afar, the 15th Century St Giles Church looks like any other medieval church. If you look closer, however, it has some very modern additions.
At the top of the church tower is a small satellite dish and four telecoms transmitters that provide high-speed broadband to around 120 local households, which previously had no or limited coverage.
The antenna was installed two years ago by a broadband operator that specialises in connecting rural communities to the internet.
The church is paid rent for hosting the kit, which has been carefully designed and camouflaged so as not to damage the aesthetic of the ancient building.
Speaking to Sky News, Vicar Reverend Gay Ellis said: "Some people were worried that we were going to damage the church, or that it would look out of place, or is it right for us as a Church to be doing this sort of thing?
"But the more we got involved in it, and the more people understood about it, they realised that this was really part of the Church's mission. This was a type of ministry."
Modernising the church
St Giles is not the only church to receive a modern outlook. According to the Church of England, there are already about 120 examples of broadband and mobile services being delivered from parish churches across the country.
Whether it’s a wireless transmitter hidden in the spire or an aerial or satellite dish, the equipment is used to boost both voice and data coverage.
Image credit: Sky News