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Wales Office Minister leads summit to tackle mobile phone 'not spots'

Wales Office Minister and Ofcom host a summit to improve mobile phone reception across Wales.

Wales Office Minister, Guto Bebb / Guto Bebb, Gweinidog Swyddfa Cymru
Wales Office Minister, Guto Bebb / Guto Bebb, Gweinidog Swyddfa Cymru.

The UK Government and Ofcom hosted a summit on Thursday 12 January bringing together mobile phone operators, politicians and people affected by poor mobile phone coverage to find a solution to the problem in Wales.

The UK Government is committed to improving connectivity across the country and in all parts of Wales. Tackling mobile not-spots was one of the issues that both Alun Cairns, the Secretary of State for Wales, and Guto Bebb, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales highlighted as a priority when they took office, with the message that ‘Wales can’t be left behind the rest of the UK’.

Wales is still falling behind the rest of the UK with Ofcom’s recent Connected Nations Report showing that indoor 4G coverage in Wales is 30% lower than Northern Ireland, 28% lower than Scotland and 42% lower than England.

Ensuring people across the whole of Wales can access strong mobile phone coverage is a priority for the UK Government. The Digital Economy Bill will make a significant contribution to extending coverage across the UK and in December the Government announced that it would invest £1 billion in digital infrastructure.

Wales Office Minister, Guto Bebb said:

Mobile connectivity is a crucial part of modern life and vital for our economic success, health and well-being. This summit aims to bring the UK Government, regulators and Mobile Network Providers together to improve coverage for businesses and communities across Wales. This is the beginning of a process that will address the barriers that face people across the nation.

It’s unacceptable that Wales continues to lag behind the rest of the UK in terms of mobile coverage in an era when businesses, travellers and householders need to be able to rely on robust mobile provision. To ensure that Wales flourishes in the 21st century digital economy, we need the right telecommunications network and I’m hopeful that together we can make some real progress that will benefit businesses, people and communities across Wales.

Rhodri Williams, Ofcom’s Director in Wales said:

Wales’ terrain makes the task of building digital infrastructure more difficult and more costly than in many other parts of the UK. However, the expectations of consumers in Wales are increasing and we all now want to be able to use our mobile devices wherever we are. In order for communications to work for everyone, all parties with a role to play should collaborate to do what we can to get the best solution for consumers in Wales.

Mobile Summit Communique

A meeting was held on Thursday 12 January 2017 at Ofcom Wales’ Offices at Cardiff Bay to discuss how to improve mobile phone coverage in Wales.

The participants included:

  • Guto Bebb – UK Government
  • Julie James - Welsh Government
  • Mobile Phone Operators
  • Local Authorities
  • Ofcom Wales

The principal aim of the summit was to discuss the improvements being made to mobile connectivity in Wales in 2017, and how mobile operators, UK Government and the Welsh Government can best work together to address the significant challenges in delivering further coverage improvements in Wales.

The participants heard real life experiences from people struggling with poor mobile reception as well as hearing from the Network Operators about current work to improve service levels.

The participants recognised the progress being made and future plans, the increased reliance on mobile, the economic importance of good 4G mobile coverage for businesses and individuals and the impact poor reception can have.

They discussed the particular challenges of delivering coverage in Wales, not least the unique topography and population distribution in parts of the country. All parties agreed that they have a responsibility to work together to continue to improve the current situation for businesses and individuals across Wales and that the summit was a key part of that process.

The following commitments were made:

  • The UK Government has committed to reducing rent for mobile network operators through reforms to the electronic communications code and will explore how mobile operators can use some of the new emergency mobile network to improve coverage
  • The Welsh Government will explore a range of levers available to them including how planning controls can be used to improve the reach of the mobile telecommunications network in areas with poor coverage
  • The mobile phone operators will continue to work together with partners in the UK and Welsh Governments to deliver future improvements in mobile connectivity for Welsh consumers and businesses, including to both geographic and indoor coverage
Published 12 January 2017
Last updated 16 January 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated with communique
  2. First published.