Research by the GSMA found a direct correlation between high spectrum prices and reduced network quality and availability, with millions said to be left unconnected due to regulators’ policies.

In the scathing report published by the organisation’s analyst arm GSMA Intelligence (GSMAi), experts found strong links between high spectrum costs, rates of deployment and quality of 3G and 4G networks in both developing and developed markets.

The organisation used data from auctions held across 64 markets between 2010 and 2017 before assessing the availability and quality of related services.

In both developed and developing markets, it concluded higher spectrum costs played a significant role in slowing network rollout and drove long-term reductions in network quality.

GSMAi found in countries with the highest spectrum prices, the average 4G network covered 7.5 per cent less of the population compared with those where operators paid average prices.

Brett Tarnutzer, head of spectrum at the GSMA, said: “Spectrum auctions can’t be viewed as cash cows anymore. Any government that prices spectrum to maximise revenue now does so with full knowledge that its actions will have negative repercussions on citizens and the development of mobile services.”

“We now have clear evidence that shows by restricting the financial ability of operators to invest in mobile networks, millions of consumers are suffering.”