Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Conversing with a tree

El Reg is carrying an article about mobile phone masts disguised as trees. The problem we have in the UK is that over 70% of the population now has a mobile phone, but we’re getting increasingly uppity about having the necessary masts put up so that we can actually chat. The vast majority of the evidence suggests that there are no health risks associated with the masts, so anyone who opposes them on health grounds is stupid, but I do agree that they aren’t the most pleasant things to look at.
With another 10 000 masts required so that we can all watch video on our phones (woohoo?) the networks naturally have to think up ways of making the masts less obvious so that they can be erected in more sensitive areas – national parks, or areas of with a high nimby concentration – and the latest one is disguising the masts as trees. We already have a few of these in Britain – I’ve seen one myself. It’s next to the A64 near Stockton-on-the-Forest as you leave York heading towards Malton and Scarborough – look on your left as you slow down past a crossroads.
At first, it looks like a rather bare tree, but as you get closer you realise that the very straight brown trunk is actually metal, as are the branches. It’s quite odd, but it does manage to make the mast a little more discrete.
Of course, one major problem why we have so many masts is because the networks are seemingly unwilling to share masts (at least last time I checked). While the UK may only have 5 networks (One.Tel, Tesco, Virgin et al are piggyback networks), as far as I know, each network has its own set of masts. If each shared the masts, not only would we potentially have better coverage but fewer masts and fewer nimbys.
Talking of masts… does anyone want to put up a decent TV mast somewhere in central Bradford?


  1. There’s a pic of a phone mast “tree” on Mobitopia, the highly visible dish towards the top hasn’t yet been painted.

  2. Cool. The one I saw was somewhat more barren than that – think Monkey Puzzle tree that’s had a nasty relationship with a chainsaw.

  3. Yeah I really do wish they’d share masts, I get awful reception where I live for T-Mobile whereas everyone else has the more expensive Vodaphone and get perfect reception!

  4. There has been one in wales ever since the new road opened some 5/6 years ago the thing now is that they have added more to the tree and its now noticable that its not a real tree. I will take a picture this year on our way to Cearnarvon..( hopes I have spelt it correct.)

  5. My second geocache was planted next to one of these – first time i’d heard of it and seen one – they realy did look pretty realistic… (pic here)