NIC calls for urgent action to tackle ‘deplorable’ mobile services

The NIC has called for urgent action to tackle ‘deplorable’ mobile services in the UK [Image: Halfpoint via iStock]

Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) Lord Adonis has called for urgent action to provide mobile network customers with better service.

It follows new figures revealing that large parts of the country may not be even getting the most basic services expected.

Lord Adonis wrote to Sharon White, the head of Ofcom, urging “concerted action” between the body and the government to combat the situation. He said the regulator should “put all options on the table” to improve mobile phone coverage between now and the next mobile spectrum being auctioned. This includes possible legal and regulatory changes.

A new definition of good mobile coverage published by Ofcom shows that geographic landmass coverage – that is, coverage enabling users to make an uninterrupted mobile phone call for 90 seconds – could be as much as ten percentage points lower than previously published under previous measurements.

While network operators are expected to deliver coverage to 90 per cent of the country, the new figures suggest that it is just 80 per cent that is actually achieved.

The research also found that total 4G coverage, where reception is available from all four mobile operators, is available across just 43 per cent of the UK’s landmass. Meanwhile, 30 per cent of the UK’s geography does not receive a signal for calls and texting from all four operators.

Lord Adonis said: “This new measure for coverage comes almost a year to the day after we first warned about the poor mobile signal communities can face, but now suggests the situation is even worse than we thought.

“It demonstrates the need for urgent and radical action to tackle this issue immediately, ahead of new mobile spectrum being auctioned and 5G technology being rolled out.”

He has therefore urged Ms White to consider mobile mast sharing, using unused spectrum and introducing roaming in an attempt to increase coverage.