UK government scraps £150M infrastructure project – reports - Mobile World Live

UK government scraps £150M infrastructure project – reports

16 FEB 2016

The UK government will scrap a £150 million mobile infrastructure project next month, admitting failure to progress the initiative designed to improve connectivity in rural areas.

The project, first unveiled in 2011 and rolled out in 2013, proposed the construction of 600 masts in the country within three years, targeting the end of so called ‘not spots’ in remote areas without sufficient mobile connectivity.

However, during a governmental debate held last week, the Daily Telegraph reports the UK’s digital economy minister Ed Vaizey said just 15 masts had been set up so far, admitting he is “guilty as charged” over the project’s failure.

“I do not think the programme has been a success, and I do not think that ministers often say that about their own programmes,” Vaizey told MPs. “We set aside £150 million. We talked about 600 sites. Our heart was in the right place.”

When the scheme first kicked off in 2013, ministers said it would “help connect rural communities, create local jobs and contribute to economic growth”.

The country’s four operators (EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 UK) also pledged support, stating they will fund each sites’ operating cost for up to 20 years, with the £150 million intended to build the infrastructure.

Vaizey said part of the project’s slow progress was down to the country’s mobile players, as well as objections from local residents and planners.

“We were dragging the four operators with us, metaphorically kicking and screaming,” he said.

By the end of 2015, the project cost a reported £9.1 million.

Consolidate to end ‘notspots’
David Dyson, CEO of 3 UK, also addressed the issue of ‘not spots’ in an interview with the Financial Times earlier this week, as he pushed reasons why the company’s proposed £10.5 billion acquisition of rival O2 should be approved.

The merger is currently going through European regulatory scrutiny, with concerns that it will hurt competition as it removes a competitor in the UK market.

“There is a significant imbalance in the market,” he said. “People will think four operators are good because the UK works well. I fundamentally disagree, and you would find a lot of support from consumers and governments given the ‘notspots’, reliability of networks and 4G rollouts.”

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Kavit Majithia

Kavit joined Mobile World Live in May 2015 as Content Editor. He started his journalism career at the Press Association before joining Euromoney’s graduate scheme in April 2010. Read More >>

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