GSMA pushes alternatives to UK national roaming

GSMA pushes alternatives to UK national roaming

27 NOV 2014

GSMA, the mobile industry association, suggested alternative solutions to national roaming as a way to tackle the issue of partial not-spots in the UK.

At the beginning of November, the government launched an investigation in “various legislative proposals” that could enable national roaming (or an alternative) in the UK, as part of a plan “to eliminate the poor mobile coverage that blights a fifth of the UK”.

A statement said talks had taken place with operators in recent months “in an attempt to find a voluntary solution”, and this was expected to continue during the consultation, which closed yesterday.

In response to UK government proposals, Tom Phillips, the GSMA’s chief regulatory officer, today described mandated national roaming as “technically complex, expensive and would impede law enforcement activities”.

He added that the scheme is likely to create issues in making, receiving and maintaining calls, meaning other ways to ensure improvements in the consumer experience need to be looked at.

The GSMA is also concerned that mandated national roaming would reduce the incentives for future investment in network infrastructure, which would then limit socio-economic growth.

Phillips cited research from Capital Economics, which claims national roaming could lead to an annual reduction in industry capital expenditure of £360 million to £440 million, reducing GDP by 0.1 to 0.2 per cent.

The same report suggested the rollout of 4G services in the UK could be delayed by between 18 and 24 months as resources are diverted to national roaming efforts.

Phillips argued that the solution to tackling partial not-spots is “through continued investment in our mobile networks, enabled by a favourable regulatory environment”.

Solutions proposed by the GSMA to enable voluntary coverage expansion include reassessing the level of annual spectrum charges to ensure cash can be diverted back to vital network infrastructure investment.

In addition, reform of the Electronic Communications Code, which covers the right of UK operators to access land to deploy infrastructure, would increase the speed and extent to which UK operators can reduce partial not-spots.

The concept of national roaming in the UK is not new – reports from June said the approach was being mulled by operators.

Subsequently, operators were reported to be struggling to meet the government’s timetable, as carving the network in the way intended proved difficult – partially explaining while national roaming is not common elsewhere.


Tim Ferguson

Tim joined Mobile World Live in August 2011 and works across all channels, with a particular focus on apps. He came to the GSMA with five years of tech journalism experience, having started his career as a reporter... More

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