The UK government and the country’s four mobile network operators, EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 have reached a binding agreement to increase network coverage rather than establishing a national roaming agreement, which the operators opposed. The carriers have collectively agreed to invest GBP 5 billion to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017. They pledged to provide guaranteed voice and text coverage from each operator across 90 percent of the UK geographic area by 2017, halving the current ‘partial not-spots’, areas where consumers have coverage from some but not all mobile networks.
The agreement also calls for full coverage from all four mobile operators to 85 percent of the geographic areas by 2017, compared to 69 percent at present. The carriers said they will provide reliable signal strength for voice on 2G, 3G and 4G, to remedy the current situation where many consumer frequently lose signal or cannot get a signal long enough to make a call. This deal will cut total not-spots, where there is no mobile coverage, by two-thirds. The amended licensing conditions will be enforceable by Ofcom.
The government will make no cash payments to the networks under the deal. It has pledged to bring the agreement to the attention of Ofcom in the context of its work to revise annual licence fees. The government said it would also reform the Electronic Communications Code to make it easier for the whole communications sector to roll out new mobile and broadband services. Finally, the government will allow many of its buildings to be used as sites for mobile infrastructure, potentially opening up hundreds of sites to increase mobile coverage, including in areas where it was previously difficult to extend network coverage.