Operators in the UK must allow consumers to roam between different networks in the country, and should face fines for failing to improve mobile coverage, urged a group of MPs in a new report.
The British Infrastructure Group (BIG), made up of almost 90 MPs, ran an investigation into how the government can improve mobile coverage for “millions of UK customers who receive inadequate service”, and urged a number of sweeping reforms.
The group said it was “absurd” that UK customers were stuck with a single provider, while those visiting the country received better and broader mobile coverage because foreign SIM cards enable roaming across national networks.
According to its findings, on average, British mobile users can only access 4G coverage 53 per cent of the time, while 17 million customers had poor reception at home.
It also said 525 areas had non-existent coverage.
Tackling ‘not spots’
“National roaming provides a solution to eliminating partial ‘not spots’ by enabling mobile consumers to use different mobile operators when they do not receive signal from their primary provider,” read the report.
The report further took aim at an agreement signed in 2014 by the UK’s mobile operators and the government, which pledged a £5 billion investment to fix “not spots” in the country, and improve mobile coverage by 2017.
This was a commitment made in exchange for the government not pushing a national roaming system.
At the time, mobile operators knocked back the suggestion of national roaming, branding the plan as “unworkable and undesirable”.
However, the pressure is now increasing, with BIG claiming that operators are failing to meet targets set in the £5 billion agreement.
The group said it was “highly unlikely” that a target of providing voice coverage to 90 per cent of the UK’s geographic area by the end of 2017 would be achieved, and called for a progress update to be published this year.
It also wants an amendment to the UK’s digital economy bill, which would allow Ofcom to issue fines to “any mobile operator that does not meet its commitments”.
“BIG argues that it’s time to sort out the mobile coverage problem once and for all,” it added.