£5bn scheme to improve mobile phone signals

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THE GOVERNMENT has secured a landmark deal for mobile phone users which guarantees £5 billion of investment for the UK’s infrastructure.

The deal, it is claimed, will cut ‘partial not spots’ where mobile phone users struggle to find a signal.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid today said the deal with the four mobile networks would improve mobile coverage across the UK by 2017.

He said the scheme the Government has secured with mobile networks EE, O2, Three and Vodafone would tackle poor signals.

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.

Under the agreement all four of the mobile networks have collectively agreed to £5bn investment programme to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017 and guaranteed voice and text coverage across 90 per cent of the UK geographic area by 2017, halving the number of ‘partial not-spots’.

They would also guarantee full coverage from all four mobile operators to increase from 69 per cent to 85 per cent of geographic areas by 2017; and they guarantee to provide reliable signal strength for voice for each type of mobile service.

They also make the deal legally binding, enforceable by Ofcom.

No cash payments will be made by Government to the mobile networks as part of this agreement.

Mr Javid said this deal will result in cutting 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.

He said: “I am pleased to have secured a legally binding deal with the four mobile networks. Too many parts of the UK regularly suffer from poor mobile coverage leaving them unable to make calls or send texts.

“Government and businesses have been clear about the importance of mobile connectivity, and improved coverage, so this legally binding agreement will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves. The £5bn investment from the mobile networks in the UK’s infrastructure will help drive this Government’s long-term economic plan.”

A Vodafone UK spokesman said: “We support the Government’s objective of delivering better coverage to rural areas including partial not spots. This is why Vodafone is already spending £1 billion on our network and services in the UK this year alone.”

Whilst discussions with the mobile operators on a voluntary solution continued, the Government consulted on legislative options in November 2014 to ensure that the issue of poor mobile coverage was addressed. Mr Javid said this voluntary binding agreement secures a better deal for consumers and businessess.

As part of the agreement, the Government will bring this agreement to the attention of Ofcom in the context of their work to revise annual licence fees, the subscription fee mobile networks pay Government.

He said the Government also intends to reform the ‘out-dated and ineffective’ Electronic Communications Code to make it easier for the communications industry to rollout out new mobile and broadband services.

The Government is also allowing many of the Government’s buildings to be used as sites for aerials, potentially opening up hundreds of sites to boost mobile coverage.