Lord Adonis: Dear Ofcom, fix ‘deplorable’ mobile coverage

The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, Lord Adonis, has written a letter to the head of Ofcom calling for the telecoms regulator to fix ‘deplorable’ mobile phone coverage.

In the letter, Lord Adonis says the regulator should “put all options on the table” to improve mobile phone coverage between now and the next mobile spectrum being auctioned.

Large parts of the country remain without reliable coverage

Last week, Ofcom published its annual assessment of UK mobile and broadband coverage. On the whole, the results are positive. So-called "superfast" internet (classified as 30Mbit/s download speeds or higher) is now available to 91 percent of homes, up from 89 percent last year. Mobile coverage has also increased seven percent since last year.

However, mobile coverage is still poor. Ofcom now says it’s possible to make a call with any of the four major networks in 70 percent of the UK. That means a third of the country is still unable to make a call; let alone use data services.

Lord Adonis wrote in the letter: "Large parts of the country remain without reliable coverage, with almost a third of the UK's geography unable to receive a signal from all four operators."

Indoor 4G coverage has risen from 40 percent to 58 percent this year. However, in rural areas Lord Adonis highlights that "nearly four out of every five premises [are] unable to receive an indoor 4G service."

UK mobile operators promised to provide 90 percent coverage by the end of the year. That target looks set to fall short, and Lord Adonis is calling on Ofcom to factor in a failure to meet these obligations during the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction.

Mandatory roaming is another option which Lord Adonis believes should be reassessed if operators continue to not meet their commitments. This would require operators to allow consumers to use a rival network temporarily if a signal is available.

Back in early 2014, when mandatory roaming was last being considered, the operators rejected the idea and opted instead to invest £5 billion into boosting the UK’s mobile infrastructure. They claimed mandatory roaming would slow network expansion in rural areas.

You can read Lord Adonis’ full letter to Ofcom here (PDF)

What measures do you think Ofcom should take in order to fix mobile coverage? Let us know in the comments.

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