Press release

Mobile operators sign up to coverage improvements

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

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

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

As part of the UK 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. This will have a big impact on Wales, helping to reduce the amount of not-spots around the country.

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

Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns said:

It is crucial that Wales and the rest of the UK have world-class mobile phone coverage.

Wales has put up with poor mobile coverage for far too long - I welcome the news that the UK’s mobile phone operators are working together to get rid of these not-spots.

Improved coverage is essential for businesses and a key part of our long term economic plan to make Wales an attractive place to invest, create jobs and give people the security of a regular wage.

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. 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 sure that consumers have a choice of high-quality communications.

Published 3 February 2015