56 MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services have called on the digital secretary to make it a legal obligation that the UK’s four mobile operators provide 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2022.
The Parliamentary group has made the call in an attempt to improve 4G coverage in the country’s rural areas that still lag far behind urban conurbations. On average, 90% of UK premises can currently make calls on all four networks, only 57% can do the same in rural areas.
In May last year the Conservative Party manifesto pledged to increase mobile coverage to 95% of the country, but since then little has been done. And Ofcom recently announced it would make coverage targets a condition of sale at its spectrum auction.
But the MPs do not consider these pledges enough. They state that Ofcom’s role is to work towards delivering universal mobile coverage.
The group also want significant changes in the rules of transparency to prevent mobile operators from hiding behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ when it doesn’t inform communities where and when they plan to roll-out their coverage.
The MPs went so far as to accuse the mobile operators of abandoning rural areas and will only invest if they are forced to.
Recent evidence shows that the market alone is not providing the rollout necessary to meet the needs of rural areas. This means that regulation has a key role to play. The main regulation required is a legally binding coverage obligation imposed on all four major operators.
We are concerned as of the end of 2017, there are no legally binding targets in place for mobile operators to extend rollout. Every day this goes by presents the risk of further delay and obfuscation on the part of the industry.- Joint Statement: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services
The MPs demands comes after a report from the Country Land and Business Association that mobile network operators have been failing to submit applications for new masts in some of the rural areas with the worst 4G coverage.
And a recent survey by the National Farmers’ Union estimated that just 9% of farmers received broadband speeds of 24Mbps or more and only 15% had a reliable outdoor phone signal.
Image: Maurice from Zoetermeer