A UK mobile operator industry group welcomed a peer’s criticism of network coverage and quality, stating it backs calls for changes to legislation at national and regional levels.
While the operators declined to comment directly, a statement by Mobile UK (a trade association representing EE, O2 UK, 3 UK and Vodafone UK) said the criticism of current networks by Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), highlighted the need for legislative reforms “to support mobile infrastructure, especially in removing barriers in the planning process.”
Adonis warned the UK is at risk of falling behind other countries in rollout of next generation mobile and broadband networks unless swift action is taken to increase capacity.
In a statement announcing a public consultation on the future needs of mobile and other critical infrastructure, Adonis said the USA, Netherlands and Japan are currently ahead of the UK in terms of 4G and broadband speeds.
Global research by wireless mapping company OpenSignal released in June goes some way to bearing out Adonis’ claim. The company revealed the average data rate on UK LTE networks during Q1 2017 stood at 22.65Mb/s, while Japan’s average was 24.45Mb/s and the Netherlands 38.36Mb/s. However, the research placed the US well behind on 14.99Mb/s.
Adonis blamed years of funding shortages and erratic policy decisions for the situation, stating the country risks “falling behind internationally if we don’t improve our mobile and broadband connections”.
Speaking to BBC News, the peer compared the experience of making a mobile phone call to a Charlie Chaplin film, where the “picture is fuzzy” and frequently drops out. He told the news agency mobile operators must increase investment in networks.
While Mobile UK expressed disappointment Adonis failed to “acknowledge the considerable progress made by the industry” in terms of improving coverage in the UK as part of a “£5 billion investment programme”, it stated operators “look forward to responding to the NIC’s consultation.
Operators in the country have long called for changes to government policies, in particular with regard to planning permission covering mobile masts.
In 2014, the quartet were reported to have proposed amendments including permitting installation of masts up to 25-metres high, around 10-metres higher than existing masts, in a bid to improve rural coverage.
OpenSignal in September revealed it was able to receive an LTE signal from EE 78.4 per cent of the time, O2 74.2 per cent, Vodafone 71.4 per cent, and 3 UK 57.1 per cent.