Use spectrum cash to boost mobile coverage, says Ofcom panel
The government should use the money from the upcoming 4G spectrum to extend mobile coverage in the UK, Ofcom’s Communications Consumer Panel says.
The panel said the market has already delivered maximum economic coverage for 2G voice services. 3G and new 4G services were unlikely to extend existing coverage, and it doubted that consumer and small business needs would be met.
This was “creating significant problems” for small businesses, as well as the three million people living in not-spots, the people passing through them and passengers on the rail and London tube networks, it said.
The panel wants Ofcom to consider imposing coverage obligations on the auction winners for each of the UK nations and some English regions, or to retain money from the spectrum auction to fund a reverse auction run to upgrade rural coverage. “Operators that successfully bid for this should be required to provide roaming for these areas,” the panel said in a statement.
Panel chairman Bob Warner said most places that were mobile not-spots 10 years ago were still not-spots. “The spectrum auction presents perhaps the only chance we have in the next decade to improve coverage in the nations and for rural communities.”
The present auction foresees mobile coverage of 92% of the population. Cumbria and Border MP Rory Stewart persuaded parliament to vote unanimously to extend 800MHz mobile coverage to 95%.
He estimated the cost of the 1500 extra towers was only some £215m. This was tiny relative to the improvement in the quality of life and potential economic impact on people who were now excluded, and a fractin of the £3bn Ofcom hoped to raise form the auction, he told parliament.