UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has varied the licences of the country’s four mobile network operators with a view to improving mobile coverage across the country. In announcing the development the watchdog said it followed an agreement reached between the Government and EE, O2 UK, Vodafone UK and Three UK in December 2014 to increase mobile coverage. As per the licence variations all four cellcos have committed to providing voice coverage across 90% of the UK’s landmass by the end of 2017. In light of these variations, meanwhile, Ofcom has said it plans to consult further on the annual licence fees for the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands, noting that the Government had directed it in 2010 to revise the charges to reflect full market value after the completion of the 4G auction.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in December 2014 as per the agreement signed by EE, O2 UK, Vodafone UK and Three UK, the quartet collectively agreed to invest some GBP5 billion (USD7.85 billion) in the nation’s mobile infrastructure; such expenditure will reportedly include the construction of new towers and investment in new technology in order to achieve guaranteed voice and text coverage across 90% of the UK by 2017. At that date UK culture secretary Sajid Javid noted that the deal would be made legally binding through amended licence conditions to be enforced by local telecoms regulator Ofcom, while confirming that with regards to possible future compensation for the cellcos the state would ‘bring this agreement to the attention of Ofcom in the context of their work to revise annual licence fees’. For its part, the watchdog is required to monitor the delivery of the agreement, and is expected to report on whether cellcos are meeting an interim goal in 2016.