The head of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is “pressing for concerted action” by regulator Ofcom and the government to address poor mobile coverage in the country.
In a letter to Ofcom, Lord Adonis said the regulator should “put all options on the table” to improve coverage between now and the next spectrum auction – including possible legal and regulatory changes.
“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,” he said.
Adonis called for “urgent and radical action” to ensure customers are not paying for services they do not receive.
A new definition of “good mobile coverage” published by Ofcom shows the geographic landmass coverage, enabling users to make an uninterrupted mobile phone call for 90 seconds, could be as much as ten percentage points lower than previously published under old measurements.
Where network operators are expected to deliver coverage to 90 per cent of the country, the latest figures suggest 80 per cent could be achieved in practice.
In addition, just 43 per cent of the UK landmass has 4G coverage from all four operators.
In his letter to Ofcom chief Sharon White, Adonis said measures to be considered should include mast sharing, using spare spectrum and national roaming – which had been mooted previously.
He also said “the legally binding nature of the agreement signed with network operators in 2014/15 to improve mobile coverage” means Ofcom should consider enforcement action against operators not meeting requirements.
The NIC previously called for a shift away from the assumption all operation data – including mobile coverage data held by network operators – should be kept private, in favour of more open data sharing. Doing this would enable the UK to use “the latest innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning” to improve the performance of the infrastructure network.