Sajid Javid MP, the UK Government Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has announced what’s described as a “landmark deal” with the ‘big four’ mobile networks to improve coverage.
It follows a three-week consultation period that involved the government proposing mandated ‘national roaming’ as one of the options to improve rural coverage in areas where some networks provided service but others didn’t.
EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have together agreed to invest £5 billion to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017, with guaranteed voice and text coverage from each network across 90% of the UK (geography, rather than population coverage). This will also cut ‘not spot’ areas of no mobile coverage by two thirds.
The deal will be legally binding and enforceable by Ofcom, with the networks agreeing to accept amended licence conditions in return for changes to the Electronic Communications Code and a potential reduction in Annual Licence Fees. (These moves were proposed by the GSMA as part of its response to the government consultation.) In addition, hundreds of government buildings will be made available as potential sites for mobile infrastructure.
Sajid Javid said “I am pleased to have secured a legally binding deal with the four mobile networks. Too many parts of the UK regularly suffer from poor mobile coverage leaving them unable to make calls or send texts. Government and businesses have been clear about the importance of mobile connectivity, and improved coverage, so this legally binding agreement will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves. The £5 billion investment from the mobile networks in the UK’s infrastructure will help drive this Government’s long-term economic plan.”