Press release

Mobile operators sign up to coverage improvements

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Consumers set to benefit as mobile operators sign up to coverage improvements

The UK’s four mobile network operators have finalised the Government’s landmark deal to deliver improved mobile coverage for consumers across the UK.

As part of the Government’s long-term economic plan, the Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has secured legal requirements from the four mobile networks to tackle poor signal issues in so-called ‘partial not-spots’.

These are areas within the UK that have coverage from some but not all of the four mobile networks. Depending on the network consumers are on, they may have no coverage in these areas.

The mobile networks EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have now made the deal legally binding by accepting amended licence conditions to reflect the agreement. This means that for the first time ever, Ofcom will be able to enforce a consistent signal strength from each of the mobile network operators across the whole area they service, with huge benefits for consumers.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“For far too long, too many parts of the UK have regularly suffered from poor mobile coverage leaving them unable to make calls or send texts. Now at last we have progress that will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves.

“The deal will also bring £5bn investment by the mobile networks into the UK’s infrastructure, which will help drive this Government’s long-term economic plan.”

Under the agreement – a first ever – all four of the mobile networks have collectively agreed to:

  • £5bn investment programme to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017 - potentially creating jobs and a boost for the UK economy;

  • guaranteed voice and text coverage from each operator across 90 per cent of the UK geographic area by 2017, halving the areas currently blighted by patchy coverage as a result of partial ‘not-spots’;

  • full coverage from all four mobile operators will increase from 69 per cent to 85 per cent of geographic areas by 2017; and

  • provide reliable signal strength for voice for each type of mobile service (whether 2G/3G/4G) – currently many consumers frequently lose signal or cannot get signal long enough to make a call.

As a result of the deal, it will cut total ‘not-spots’ where there is currently no mobile coverage by two-thirds. This will support the Government’s existing £150m programme to take mobile coverage to the areas of the UK that have no coverage at all. Many parts of the UK will also benefit from better data coverage, some for the first time.

Mobile networks will now take forward their plans to improve mobile coverage and Ofcom will monitor progress regularly. The Secretary of State expects the operators to meet an interim goal in 2016, and will be receiving updates on this.

EE CEO Olaf Swantee said:

“EE is the UK’s number one network, and the most reliable provider of phone calls in rural areas according to a recent Ofcom report. We are delighted that this agreement has been completed, ensuring that once rolled out, our customers will be able to stay connected in even more places up and down the country. ”

Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer of O2, said:

“A partnership between government and the mobile operators is required to maximise coverage across the UK, so this agreement is a good outcome for our customers. It will support investment in our network, while ensuring that strong competition remains between the different networks.”

Dave Dyson, Chief Executive of Three, said:

“We’ve doubled the size of our network in the past five years and we continue to invest to maintain a great network experience for our customers. This agreement reflects the strength of our network today, our plans for the future and our commitment to bring its benefits to more people and more places than ever before.”

A Vodafone UK spokesperson said:

“We support the Government’s objective of delivering better coverage to rural areas including partial not spots. This is why Vodafone spent £1 billion on our network and services in the UK last year alone and will continue to spend a similar amount over the next year as well. We now expect the Government to reform and modernise the Electronic Communications Code to ensure it better supports our ability to invest, build, upgrade and maintain our fixed and mobile network.”

Ofcom has also confirmed that it will consult further on the Annual Licence Fees – the subscription fee mobile networks pay Government - in February taking into consideration this agreement.

The Government also intends to publish draft legislation for consultation on reforming the Electronic Communications Code to support the rollout of communications infrastructure and the expansion of mobile coverage. This is part of the Government’s drive to make that consumers have a choice of high-quality communications.

Notes for editors

  1. Further details on the changes to the licence agreements can be found on Ofcom’s website

  2. Media enquiries - please contact the DCMS News & Comms team on 020 7211 2210