7 in 10 businesses suffer from mobile 'not-spots'

Mobile coverage for UK firms getting worse – now 7 in 10 suffer

According to a recent survey published by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), 70% of UK companies are hobbled by mobile ‘not-spots’: areas lacking coverage from any mobile operator.

Over 1,400 business participated in the study, both rural and urban, from across the country.

Rural bad, but inner city no better

91% of rural firms can’t get the mobile coverage they need to carry out their business, while a over half of inner city businesses experience similar problems.

It is little surprise that rural areas struggle with poor connections but the shocking state of coverage in urban areas is certainly cause for concern.

7 in 10 UK firms suffer from poor mobile coverage

Watch: EE floats balloons and drones to pick up rural 4G

With the 2017 UK general election just weeks away, the BCC is placing the blame squarely on the policy-makers.

Not-spots’ are prevalent across the UK.

It’s incredible to hear that in this day and age there are even places in the City of London where businesses can’t get reliable coverage.

The Chamber Network’s election manifesto specifically calls for these issues to be rectified, and for the next government to provide all businesses with super-fast and reliable broadband and mobile connectivity to boost confidence and productivity.

- Dr Adam Marshall: Director General, BCC

How do I find out the mobile coverage in my area?

7 in 10 UK firms suffer from poor mobile coverage 1

Ofcom have maps of mobile coverage throughout the UK, while OpenSignal.com produce targeted reports from across the country and using the country’s four mobile networks: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

Getting better, or worse?

A 2015 study by small cell operator ip.access found that UK businesses were losing a staggering £33m a week – a total £1.7bn per year – from shoddy mobile coverage.

The report claimed that employees waste 2.5 million hours every week looking for better mobile phone signal to make work calls.

But despite infrastructure improvements, the physical number of people now using mobile phones has also skyrocketed.

It means despite the issues being well-recognised two years ago, the problem of poor mobile coverage for businesses has actually got worse.

There is a fundamental issue here for businesses and mobile operators.

It is pretty amazing that in an age where we have fridges that can tell you you’re out of milk; we are still faced with the age-old problem of patchy indoor mobile signal.

- Gavin Ray: Senior Vice President, ip.access

No 4G, so how will we 5G?

The study also revealed that just 42% of businesses receive a 4G connection.

In addition, 29% of urban business and 54% of rural businesses have an “unreliable” mobile internet connection.

Dr Marshall had this to say: “According to [Ofcom’s] rules, virtually all UK premises must receive 4G signal by the end of the year, but the results of our research suggest that we’re a long way off achieving that target.

“While there have been welcome announcements to roll out 5G in the future, it’s clear that getting all businesses access to 4G first remains a top priority.”

Inner city firms are more than twice as likely to get a 4G connection than rural areas, but the numbers remains pitifully low at just 54% coverage.

Businesses with over 500 employees are over 20 percent more likely to be on 4G than businesses with 4 or less employees.

Dr Marshall concluded: “The solutions are obvious. Relaxing planning laws to allow for taller masts would be a quick win for the next government to help improve mobile coverage.

“Ofcom must do more to hold providers to account for the services advertised to business customers, and put in place remedies that are as strong for business users as they are for individual consumers.”

By:

Samuel Newman is a consumer journalist and blogger based in Sheffield.
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