Mobile operators included in superfast broadband talks

For the first time; executives from EE, Vodafone, and Three will take part in discussions alongside fixed cable providers about the rollout of superfast broadband to parts of the country either not covered; or with limited access.

As part of its superfast broadband coverage plans; the government announced back in June of this year that it will be putting aside £250m in the hopes that 95 percent of UK premises will have access to superfast broadband by 2017.

The funding is alongside the controversial £520m allocated to stimulate investment in rural broadband; with the criticism surrounding the government allowing BT to effectively run “a monopoly” which is unfair to competitors.

"All of the 26 contracts let by June 2013 had gone to BT and the remaining 18 are likely to follow suit," said Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.

She continued: "The consumer is failing to get the benefits of healthy competition and BT will end up owning assets created from £1.2bn of public money."

Many customers find their speeds over mobile broadband are in fact faster (or more reliable) than their home cable fibre networks; which is undoubtedly part of the reason mobile operators have been invited to sit down in these talks.

Part of the discussion is how to expand coverage further; exploring fixed, wireless, and mobile broadband solutions to meet the target of 99 percent of UK premises a year later – 2018.

Mobile operators are looking at methods in which their own targets can be met, and services can be improved for their customers. One of the propositions is for BT to make its vast infrastructure open to aid with the rollout of 4G in rural areas.

“The government should urgently revise the process to encompass wireless 4G in order to make digital Britain a reality,” said a spokesperson for Vodafone UK last week.

EE claims that its 4G network will cover 98 per cent of the population by the end of 2014, Vodafone aims to match this target by the end of 2015, and O2 must reach the same by 2017.

Operator Three is taking a unique approach in offering a free upgrade to 4G for all existing 3G customers; with 98% of the population covered by the end of 2015.

The four main operators have committed to a £150m mobile infrastructure project in rural areas where market-driven, private investment doesn’t make sense for mobile operators.

What do you think about the talks between mobile operators and fixed broadband providers?

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