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by Jessica Wilkins and Jenni Davidson
31 October 2016
MPs call for UK Government to end mobile ‘not spots’

MPs call for UK Government to end mobile ‘not spots’

Mobile phone - Image credit: Press Association

The UK Government must end mobile phone “not spots”, a cross-party group of MPs has said.

In some areas the mobile phone signal is so poor people visiting from abroad have better reception because they not on a UK network and can roam for the best signal, they noted.

The 90 members of the British Infrastructure Group (BIG) – which includes Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford, Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray, West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes and Linlithgow and East Falkirk MP Martyn Day – called on ministers to improve coverage in mobile black spots.

According to data in a new report by the group, on average, British mobile users can only access 4G coverage 53 per cent of the time and a third of mobile phone users, 17 million people, report poor or no signal at home.

The MPs want an amendment added to the UK Government’s Digital Economy Bill which would allow Ofcom to fine mobile phone operators should they fail to meet targets set in 2014.

A deal in December 2014 gave large networks a chance to cover up “not spots”. In return, the UK Government promised not to pursue a system of national roaming.

However, the report notes that “mobile coverage in the UK has not improved significantly in the past two years”.

For example, the Mobile Infrastructure Project, which closed in March 2016, identified 600 potential sites for new phone masts in 2013, which would fill in the ‘not spots’ where the sector provides no coverage.

But the project had built just 75 masts by the end of the financial year 2015-16.

BIG suggests it is “highly unlikely” that the mobile sector will meet the target of providing coverage to 90 per cent of the UK by next year, and called for a progress update to be published by the end of 2016.

In the ‘Mobile Coverage: A Good Call for Britain?’ report, the MPs said it was “unacceptable that areas in Britain continue to have such poor mobile connectivity, and that overseas visitors can expect better mobile coverage than Britons stuck with a single provider”.

They wrote: “The time for excuses from the mobile sector is over. The government must make a better call for Britain and bring national mobile coverage policy into the 21st century.”

The group recommends the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) should undertake an impact assessment to determine whether a ‘macro not spot’ strategy could be put in place to allow roaming in the areas of the UK that need mobile coverage the most.

It also calls for a minimum service obligation that would allow consumers to end their contract free of charge if a provider fails to give an acceptable minimum level of service.

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