In publishing its latest Communications Market Report, UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has cited increased take-up of 4G services as being behind a surge in the number of smartphone users in the country. With the watchdog having claimed that two thirds of Britons now own a smartphone, it highlighted the fact that the number of customers signed up to an Long Term Evolution (LTE)-based tariff had increased significantly, from just 2.7 million at the end of 2013 to 23.6 million a year later, taking the proportion of total mobile subscriptions that were 4G to 28% at the end of 2014, up from 3% at end-2013. Meanwhile, with regards to coverage, Ofcom claims that at least one 4G mobile broadband service is now available to 89.5% of UK premises, while four in ten people reportedly have the option to choose from all four of the country’s mobile network operators – EE, O2 UK, Vodafone UK and Hutchison 3G UK (Three). With the cellcos continuing to expand and enhance their respective LTE network footprints, Ofcom notes that rules it has introduced mean that 98% of premises should have an indoor 4G signal from at least one operator by 2017.
Ofcom meanwhile has confirmed that in the coming months it plans to publish maps enabling consumers to compare operators’ mobile coverage throughout the UK. These maps will reportedly enable users to zoom to a specific location, or simply enter a place name or postcode, and receive data on coverage for each mobile network, down to 100 square metres.
Commenting on the development of the market, Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive, was cited as saying: ‘Today’s report shows just how important reliable, fast internet access is to millions of consumers and businesses. Improving the coverage and quality of all communications services across the UK is a priority for Ofcom, for people at work, home or on the move.’