UK government aiming to boost rural mobile coverage

5 Nov 2014

Possible strategies for tackling rural mobile ‘not-spots’ have been set out by the British government, including the possible enforcement of ‘national roaming’, the Financial Times reports. British culture secretary Sajid Javid was cited as saying: ‘I’m determined to ensure the UK has world-class mobile phone coverage as investment in infrastructure will help drive this government’s long term economic plan.’

However, despite Mr Javid having said that he was ‘prepared to mandate a solution in line with wider government interests, should insufficient progress be made’, it is widely expected that the nation’s telecoms industry will oppose a national roaming solution. Indeed, despite talks having been held with mobile network operators EE, O2 UK, Vodafone UK and Hutchison 3G UK (Three) aimed at reaching a voluntary solution to the rural coverage issues, it has been suggested that executives have privately claimed that any attempt to force them to open their infrastructure could prompt legal action.

Among the objections raised by cellcos to the national roaming proposals are problems that may be encountered in ringfencing voice communications and concerns over how outages would affect networks. For its part, EE was cited as saying that the ‘flawed concept of national roaming [would] deteriorate network reliability for tens of millions across the UK, plus it also risks prices rising, which customers understandably won’t tolerate’.