As those who live out in the sticks are painfully aware, rural mobile coverage is spotty at best. The independent Communications Consumer Panel recently recommended that Ofcom set mobile providers network coverage obligations.
The Panel have asserted in their report that the upcoming 4G spectrum auction is a critical point for determining the future of mobile coverage in the UK. It will raise a huge amount of funds for Ofcom and they have suggested that some of this should be retained to help fund improvements to network coverage outside of big towns and cities. The Communications Consumer Panel also posited the idea of mobile networks bidding for funds to extend rural mobile coverage in a sort of “reverse auction”.
Colin Browne from the Communications Consumer Panel said that “there are a lot of small businesses operating in rural areas” and that “it’s really important to get them the help and support they need. Good communications are a vital part of that”. He emphasised that the 4G auction is the perfect opportunity to do something about rural blackspots and that market pressures will not be enough – the only way coverage will improve is through Ofcom enforcing regulations. He also maintained that the 4G spectrum auction shouldn’t be looked at purely from the point of 4G saying, “the opportunity here is that the auction could help extend mobile coverage of one kind or another”.