NIC calls lack of 4G coverage in UK 'deplorable'

Lord Adonis has written to Ofcom calling for 'urgent and radical action'

Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), has called for action to protect mobile phone customers after figures emerged last week showing large parts of the country may not be getting the most basic services expected.

He wrote a letter last Friday to Sharon White, the CEO of Ofcom, to ask the regulator and government to tackle the situation. The minister of state for digital Matt Hancock and secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport Karen Bradley were copied into the letter.

"In an age when access to a mobile signal is regarded as a must-have, it is deplorable that even in areas previously considered to have strong coverage, operators are still delivering such poor services that customers can struggle to make a quick phone call," wrote Lord Adonis.

The NIC highlighted that total 4G coverage, where reception is available from all four mobile operators, is available across just 43% of the UK's landmass. For calls and text messaging, 30% of the country don't receive a signal from all four operators. Adonis underlined the need for greater use of shared data to increase awareness of coverage and, in turn, improve services.

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"This new measure for coverage comes almost a year to the day after we first warned about the poor mobile signal communities can face, but now suggests the situation is even worse than we thought," added Lord Adonis. "It demonstrates the need for urgent and radical action to tackle this issue immediately, ahead of new mobile spectrum being auctioned and 5G technology being rolled out.

"That's why I want Ofcom as the industry's regulator to urgently take concerted action with Government to tackle this situation. They should put all possible options on the table -- including legal and regulatory changes -- to ensure customers can be confident they are will get the service they deserve and pay for."

Lord Adonis proposed a number of possible options for increasing and improving coverage including mobile mast sharing, using unused spectrum and introducing roaming so customers can move from their network provider to signals offered by other companies where they are stronger.

He finished the letter by offering to meet White in January in order to discuss his proposals.

Steve Unger, Ofcom's CTO, told IT Pro: "We completely agree that mobile coverage must urgently improve, which will take concerted action from industry, government and the regulator. We're playing our part by enforcing rules for better coverage, and preparing to set new rules in operators' licences. We're also boosting the capacity of mobile networks by releasing new airwaves, and helping to improve coverage on trains."

Ofcom released its Connected Nations report last week, which also found that four percent of UK properties cannot get the bandwidth they need to meet their internet needs.

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Image source: Shutterstock

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