UK mobile operators have been urged by MPs to fill in the rural ‘not spots’ for 3G mobile coverage, reports the BBC.
A Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee report into the 4G spectrum auctions says the provision of mobile broadband in rural parts of Britain that are currently poorly served is being put at risk by the squabbling operators.
The report says that the regulator Ofcom should be tougher on rural broadband provision as part of the 4G auction by making at least one of the 4G licence winners guarantee to provide mobile broadband for 98 percent of the population. The current requirement is 95 percent.
Earlier this week an Ofcom report identifying areas that require infrastructure investment to provide mobile broadband found that household coverage is much better than geographic coverage due to operators targeting the maximum number of consumers and businesses.
Ofcom’s coverage map shows that 73 percent of premises, but just 13 percent of the UK’s landmass, is covered by 3G from all five operators, meaning 7.7 million UK premises do not receive 3G signal from all five operators. The highlands of Scotland and mid-Wales have the lowest 3G geographic coverage. Ofcom is working with the government to determine the best way to spend £150 million that has been allocated to address the mobile not spots issue.
Meanwhile Vodafone has announced it is looking for 12 communities in the UK to take part in rural mobile internet coverage trials using femtocell technology. The trials will start in early 2012 and build on a pilot in East Garston in Berkshire that took place this year. Vodafone will work with Alcatel-Lucent to test other infrastructure technology and local residential broadband projects to support the mobile broadband work.
The Commons committee report also criticised operators for fighting over how they plan to share 4G spectrum, which has delayed the auction of the spectrum. Both O2 and Vodafone have threatened legal action if the auction goes ahead in the form currently proposed by Ofcom.
"We believe that the basic rules for the auction which Ofcom has laid down are sensible and fair, and that further delays will result in the UK falling further behind in this vital area. The auction needs to proceed as soon as possible," chair of the committee John Whittingdale MP told the BBC.