A government report into the UK’s wireless infrastructure has concluded that Britain’s 4G network ranks 54th, beneath Albania, Panama, Peru and Romania.
The document by the National Infrastructure Commission especially targets coverage along transport hubs such as railways, roads and city centres, where the country suffers from ‘digital deserts’ or not-spots as they are more plainly known.
The Commission’s chair, former Secretary of State for Transport under Labour Andrew Adonis stated, ‘Britain is 54th in the world for 4G coverage, and the typical user can only access 4G barely half the time,’ continuing the UK lord said, ‘Our 4G network is worse than Romania and Albania, Panama and Peru. Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts and even our city centres are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible.
‘That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce.’
This is the second time in under a month that a parliamentary group has savaged the mobile industry over coverage deficiencies, with the British Infrastructure Group in November calling for localised roaming between networks in order to fill gaps.
Their chairman, the former Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps also commented on the new report with very strong words for the likes of EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, ‘This confirms what we have been saying for a long time. Over the years, ministers have been far too easy on the glib promises given by the telecoms providers and I think that has been combined with ineffective and weak regulation from Ofcom,’
‘Unfortunately there has been a very long history of believing what the telecoms companies say rather than questioning it. The fact the report was commissioned is a good thing but Britain should be all about infrastructure in this post-Brexit world and here is a real wake-up call to make sure it actually happens this time.’
The report seems to welcome 5G as the opportunity to correct any past mistakes with 4G, with Adonis saying, ‘5G offers us a chance to start again and get ahead. If government acts now we can ensure our major transport networks and urban centres are 5G ready in time to give British industry every chance to lead the world in exploiting its applications.’
However, no UK operator has formerly announced a timescale for launching 4G, there’s no industry consensus on what 5G will be, the lower range means networks may need tens of thousands of additional small cell sites fitted and the 2020 target appears hopelessly optimistic for many industry insiders. Infact, one recent book by Professor William Webb called ‘The 5G myth’ states that there’s little consumer demand or applications that require what 5G offers. Speaking to Wireless, Webb stated: ‘There is so much publicity and hype about 5G it has become something of an ingrained belief. The 5G stakeholders all benefit from the interest, funding and potential that 5G promises. The emperor has no clothes, but few are willing to say this out loud.’