The Government is considering whether it should directly intervene to improve mobile coverage for rail passengers.
The announcement was made as part of Chancellor George Osborne's Budget, which was delivered today (21 March). Osborne gave further details on how he would spend the £150m earmarked for the mobile infrastructure project, which was announced last autumn. Osborne said by 2015, mobile coverage would be extended to 60,000 rural homes and along at least 10 key roads across the UK.
He said: 'Two years ago Britain had some of the slowest broadband speeds in Europe; today our plans will deliver some of the fastest – with 90% of the population having access to superfast broadband, and improved mobile phone coverage for rural areas and along key roads across the UK.'
He also announced that Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle would become 'super-connected cities'. By 2015, ultra-fast broadband coverage would be extended to 1.7 million households and 200,000 businesses in high growth areas. Osborne also promised high speed wireless broadband for 3m residents. A further £50m would be spent on funding a second wave of smaller super-connected cities.
Julia Stent, director of telecoms at uSwitch said: 'Whilst funding earmarked for ultra-fast broadband in 10 UK cities is both ambitious and heartening, and will undoubtedly benefit technology companies looking to develop and expand in the UK, the primary concern should be the provision of a quality service to rural areas before pursuing the title of fastest broadband in the world.
'Although there are still broadband blackspots and speed issues in some urban areas of the UK, we worry that the major towns and cities will speed ahead of the rest of the country in the premature quest to become fastest in the world.
'The Government's chief concern should be the provision of a service to those areas lacking decent broadband infrastructure before pursuing the likes of Korea and Singapore. Bringing an appreciable average speed to those in rural areas who have been forever languishing in the slow lane must be of equal importance.'
Editor: Graeme Neill