A new report by UK regulator Ofcom shows how the country’s operators are vying for leadership on 4G, although they still have work to do on offering mobile coverage in the country’s harder to reach regions.
More than seven in ten premises (73 per cent) can now access 4G from three of the four operators, up from 44 per cent last year, as operators compete on coverage.
EE has made 4G coverage a key part of its strategy and is still winning the race with 85 per cent of outdoor coverage in 2015, according to Ofcom’s Connected Nations Report. It is ahead of O2 with 75 per cent and Vodafone (73 per cent). Three lags with 51 per cent.
However, EE’s rivals are narrowing the gap, which is good news for consumers. Last year EE’s 4G coverage was 69 per cent with O2 and Vodafone on 44 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively. 4G coverage data for Three in 2014 was unavailable.
46 per cent of UK premises are now covered by 4G technology, although this falls a long way short of 3G and 2G coverage (88 per cent and 93 per cent, respectively).
While more than 90 per cent of premises in the UK can receive at least a 2G signal, geographic coverage is still at 55 per cent, the same as last year. However, the regulator expects this figure to increase following an agreement between the government and operators to achieve 90 per cent geographic coverage for voice by 2017.
Sharon White, the regulator’s chief executive, said: “Mobile and broadband have become the fourth essential service, alongside gas, electricity and water. There’s been a technological revolution over recent years, with 4G mobile and superfast [fixed broadband] continuing to extend across the country.”
“Our challenge is to keep supporting competition and innovation, while also helping to improve coverage across the country – particularly in hard-to-reach areas, where mobile and home internet services need to improve,” she added.
3 drivers of growth
The report says there are three developments over the past year which have spurred mobile coverage growth in general. The operators’ agreement with the government to improve coverage is one, as is Ofcom’s programme of interactive maps which offers information to consumers, while influencing operators to boost their coverage.
Interestingly, the regulator also highlights the rise of voice over Wi-Fi, which is now offered by all operators and has helped to improve in-building coverage.