The GSMA has published a response to the UK government’s suggestion that ‘national roaming’ could be mandated to reduce areas of poor mobile phone coverage. A consultation period was launched on 5th November and ended yesterday.
A separate response has been published by EE, which commissioned a research report that shows how national roaming could cut investment and delay the rollout of 4G by up to two years. It says any benefit from national roaming would be wiped out by ‘signal locking’: unnecessarily connecting to a rival network and losing data connectivity for several minutes.
In a statement, EE described the Government‘s proposal for national roaming as “a flawed concept”. It says the UK’s major network operators have a proposal “that helps solve the problem of rural coverage, without any of the technical, economic and competitive barriers of National Roaming.”
Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA, said “The GSMA believes there are alternative solutions for tackling the issue of partial not-spots in the UK outside of mandated national roaming, which is technically complex, expensive and would impede law enforcement activities. Most importantly, as such a scheme is likely to result in issues making, receiving and maintaining calls, we need to look at other ways of ensuring that the consumer experience is continually enhanced.”
“Mobile communications are an essential part of everyday life, with 3.6 billion unique mobile subscribers and 7.2 billion connections globally. Mobile has had a profound impact on all aspects of life, from simply allowing people to communicate with each other, to providing access to services such as education, healthcare and financial services. In the UK alone, the mobile industry made a direct contribution to the economy of £13.5 billion in 2013; around one per cent of GDP.”
“We are concerned that mandated national roaming would limit incentives for investment in future mobile network infrastructure, in turn restricting future socio-economic growth. Research from Capital Economics suggests that it could lead to a reduction in industry capital expenditure by £360 to £440 million each year, reducing GDP by 0.1 to 0.2 per cent. Furthermore, the report finds that the current rapid rollout of 4G in the UK could be delayed by 18 to 24 months as resources are diverted to implement national roaming, just as increasing numbers of the population are starting to enjoy the benefits of 4G.”
“The GSMA proposes a number of key actions to enable voluntary coverage expansion to address the issue of partial not-spots. In particular, we urge the Government and Ofcom to:
- Reassess the level of annual spectrum charges to ensure that hundreds of millions of pounds can be diverted back to vital investment in network infrastructure.
- Reform the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which governs the right of UK operators to access land to deploy infrastructure to increase the speed and extent to which UK operators can voluntarily reduce partial not-spots.”
“In conclusion, we believe the solution to tackling partial not-spots is through continued investment in our mobile networks, enabled by a favourable regulatory environment. In our commitment to ensuring the best possible consumer experience, the GSMA and its members are actively engaged in a range of ongoing initiatives aimed at improving 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and the capability of mobile infrastructure, both in the UK and around the world.”
[EE research report, commissioned from Capital Economics (pdf)]
We discussed the UK government plans for reducing so-called 'not spots' in our podcast on 12th November 2014. You can listen to the programme on our website audio player, via iTunes, by using our RSS feed, on the Stitcher.com mobile app or by downloading the mp3 file directly.