The UK’s network operators have inked a £5bn deal with the Government for network improvements which will see improved mobile coverage across 90% of the UK by 2017, slashing ‘not spot’ areas by half.
In return the Government is expected to cut mobile operators’ annual license fees, with Ofcom today announcing it will launch a consultation on mobile operators' annual license fees this month.
The Government has also agreed to reform the Electronic Communications Code to help cut the cost of rolling out communications infrastructure and expanding mobile coverage.
All four operators -EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone - have signed up to the £5bn legally binding deal to improve network coverage, which gives Ofcom the powers to enforce the terms of the agreement.
The deal avoids the threat of network sharing, which the Government had previously proposed and will see millions of pounds cur from operators’ licence fees, which they could use to partially fund the £5bn improvements.
The deal also avoids the possibility of lengthy legal challenges by operators to the original network roaming proposals, as well as the possibility of costly technical and economic barriers.
The deal is said to have been given impetus this summer after Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a dropped call whilst talking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whilst on holiday in Cornwall.
Under the agreement all four networks have pledged to roll out a £5bn investment programme to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017; guarantee voice and text coverage to 90 % of the UK geographic area by 2017, which will halve the number of ‘not spots’ areas; increase full coverage from 69% to 85% of geographic areas by 2017; and to provide reliable signal strength for voice for 2G, 3G and 4G services.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said ‘For far too long, too many parts of the UK have regularly suffered from poor mobile coverage leaving them unable to make calls or send texts. Now at last we have progress that will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves.
‘The deal will also bring £5bn investment by the mobile networks into the UK’s infrastructure, which will help drive this Government’s long-term economic plan.’
All four mobile operators welcomed the deal.