U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has recently instructed his cabinet ministers to find ways to improve mobile coverage in the country’s rural areas. This directive follows a meeting that was held between the chief executives of the U.K.’s mobile operators and the country’s former culture secretary, Maria Miller, in Q1 2014 to start planning for an increase in rural mobile coverage. The new culture secretary, Sajid Javid, will take on the project and meet with MNO executives for a progress update. The operators were asked to explore, in particular, the costs of adding coverage to the A and B roads in the villages of Shropshire, Dorset and Norfolk. As part of these discussions, the U.K. government has asked that the prospect of national roaming be considered—an idea that the operators are resisting. They argue that revenues lost through national roaming could prevent them from investing in their own networks and infrastructure and that a better way to help increase coverage would be to decrease the amount of bureaucracy and cost involved in erecting masts (towers) in rural areas.
Over the last few years, the U. K. government has launched several initiatives to help bring increased mobile and broadband coverage to areas of the country where there is minimal coverage or none at all—known as “notspots.” Among these initiatives are the mobile infrastructure project (MIP) and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). However, both of these programs have received criticism. For example, BDUK has been accused of mismanaging funds, operating in an inefficient manner and favoring BT over the country’s other operators. This new order from the Prime Minister is separate from the previous endeavors, and although the country’s four largest MNOS are all increasing their investments in 4G services, the operators fear that the reasons behind the regulation have a number of different bases—the areas in which the government has asked for increased coverage are core Conservative Party voting territories.
“Although the U.K. communications regulator Ofcom must act within the powers and duties set for it by Parliament, and its principal duty is to further the interests of citizens and consumers—which include increased coverage in underserved areas—regulators also need to try to work with operators. Any undue pressure—possibly politically driven in this case—on the regulator to implement changes under the guise of increasing service in the telecom industry may be met with resistance by the operators.”
The Tarifica Alert
The above item appeared in a recent issue of The Tarifica Alert, a weekly resource that analyzes noteworthy developments in the telecoms industry from around the world. To access all of the latest articles and issues: http://www.tarifica.com/TarificaAlert.aspx