Following the Government’s announcement on poor network coverage here’s what the UK mobile industry has been saying:
Vodafone: ‘As Vodafone and the other UK mobile operators have told the Government directly on a number of occasions, national roaming will not provide the people of the UK with better quality voice and mobile internet coverage. In fact, it would make coverage and quality significantly worse from the customer's perspective, with a much higher risk of dropped calls, lower battery life and negative impact on services such as voicemail.’
EE: ‘What we don’t want to do is implement the flawed concept of 'national roaming’. This will deteriorate network reliability for tens of millions across the UK, plus it also risks prices rising, which customers understandably won’t tolerate.’
O2: ‘We have made our concerns over the national roaming proposals very clear and have advised the government on a range of alternative solutions to achieve the same ambition. National roaming will worsen the experience people have when using their phones and undermine future investment in mobile infrastructure in the UK.’
Anotony Walker, deputy CEO, techUK: ’Getting the best mobile coverage and quality of service for UK consumers is essential in today’s digital society. techUK believes that technology should be ubiquitous and supports the underlying motivation behind today’s announcement by the Government calling for further action to fill remaining gaps in mobile coverage. However implementing national roaming, which is one of the four options being considered, would be a very big step.
The incentives for infrastructure deployment are very finely balanced and care must be taken to ensure that a switch to national roaming does not lead to unintended consequences. As Ed Richards Chief Executive of Ofcom, explained to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee national roaming could ‘disincentivise’ infrastructure investment and competition as well as have technical consequences leading to a worse overall customer experience.
Extending the reach and quality of mobile services is a vital goal but it’s paramount that an in-depth and detailed consultation with industry takes place, ensuring investment infrastructure and competition is balanced with the needs and experience of the consumer. A three week consultation process is too short to fully consider all the options and implications of such an important issue with such long term consequence.’
Matthew Howett, practice leader, regulation, Ovum: ‘The government’s preferred solution of ’national roaming' to deal with mobile not-spots, while sounds attractive to those with coverage issues, is a messy solution that ought to be abandoned. The cost, complexity and side effects of national roaming make it such an unworkable fix that the industry thought had been dropped. While it might work when you travel abroad, it isn’t a solution to dealing with poor mobile coverage domestically.’
‘While not directly linked, Ofcom’s ongoing reconsideration of annual spectrum licence fees is also likely to be pulled into this debate. The current proposal is for the mobile operators to collectively pay an additional £182.3 million a year more than they currently do to use the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands. You are expect the operators to suggest that this money might be better spent improving the issue of not-spots…’
Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch: ‘National roaming only tackles partial not-spots, so it would have no impact at all on people living in UK blackspots, where no coverage is available on any network. However, continued investment in our network infrastructure would help to address this issue.
‘Allowing networks to ride on the coat tails of others would remove any incentive for underperforming networks to invest in improving their existing infrastructure.
‘Consumers are bound to see a financial knock-on effect if the Government does force national roaming through, which will only penalise the providers with the best coverage. Bills could rise yet again if some mobile networks try to recoup the losses through their customers.’