BT Consumer CEO Marc Allera (pictured) urged rival operators and UK authorities to support a scheme to connect rural areas still unable to receive a mobile signal.
In a letter published in The Daily Telegraph, Allera said a different approach to rural connectivity was needed, with coverage targets expected to be slapped on the regulator’s next spectrum auction not doing enough to address barriers hampering deployment.
Allera believes a cross-industry rural coverage pledge is needed for the UK, defining how to connect those without a signal and improve choice for those with coverage from only one or two operators in a “fair and equitable way”.
The agreement would allow communities without a signal the right to request connection, with mobile operators and local authorities then working together on planning matters and subsequent rollout.
Allera added the commitment required the full support of authorities as government funding would be required, in addition to changes in planning rules to improve access to the rooftops of public buildings and taller masts.
Limitations in planning processes have been cited by a number of operators as barriers to meeting coverage targets put in place by regulator Ofcom, with authorities in the UK eager to address the issue of mobile not-spots.
Allera also took the opportunity to criticise calls for mandated roaming between networks in areas lacking connectivity to all four operators.
He said the policy, which supporters say increases competition, would “dilute any incentive to grow coverage into those hard to reach places and give an unfair leg-up to those who have avoided connecting people in rural areas until now.”
Instead, he said the industry should “supercharge” existing mast sharing agreements with access to infrastructure on “fair and appropriate terms”.