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‘Common sense’ approach needed to eradicate mobile not-spots

Tuesday, December 30th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

There needs to be some “knocking of heads together” to resolve the issue of mobile not-spots, the head of an influential committee of MPs has said.

Andrew Miller, chair of the commons science and technology committee, said there needed to be more “clarity of thinking” between mobile operators and planning officials up and down the country to help eliminate the problem.

The government last week announced a “binding agreement” with Vodafone, O2, Three and EE to improve the UK’s mobile coverage.

The operators will invest £5bn over the next three years to cut the number of not-spots by two thirds and provide reliable signal strength on 2G, 3G, and 4G.

Asked for his reaction to last week’s announcement, Mr Miller (Lab – Ellesmere Port and Neston) told Cable.co.uk: “I would like to see a bit more clarity of thinking between the mobile operators and the planning officials up and down the country.

“I would encourage an element of knocking of heads together on both parts.

“Some of the mobile operators aren’t as keen as they ought to be in areas like mast sharing when they can help people.

“Some planning authorities and some landowners have not been very helpful in terms of meeting what is becoming a day-to-day societal requirement.”

More “common sense” should be applied to the situation, he said, adding: “If a landowner makes it awkward for a mast operator to, for example get access for repair and maintenance, or seeks to do unreasonable things financially, we’ve got to get rid of that.

“There’s got to be a lot more common sense applied.”

Mergers

Citing BT’s plans to buy EE, Mr Miller also predicted a future mobile network landscape containing fewer operators, with companies merging or big players buying other firms.

“We’ve seen this drive in the market for BT re-entering the mobile market and mergers continuing to occur,” he said.

“That will happen and I wouldn’t mind betting that by the end of next year there are fewer mobile operators in the big league than there are today as a result of mergers.

“That may not be a bad thing, as long as the regulatory structure that underpins it takes account of how to deal with corporations that start to gain an overly strong share of the market.”

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) previously told Cable.co.uk that its deal with the four networks would deliver a better result to consumers.

A spokesman said: “The Culture Secretary was determined to tackle partial not-spots and consulted on a range of options, including facilitating the creation of Multi-Operator MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators).

“Today's deal delivers a better result to consumers by locking in £5 billion of investment in mobile infrastructure.

“Partial not-spots will be halved and total not-spots will decrease by two-thirds. In addition, consumers will benefit from increased data coverage.”

The networks last week welcomed the deal, with an O2 spokesman saying the agreement would deliver better geographic coverage for customers across the UK, as well as supporting investment in the network and maintaining market competition between operators.”

Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO for Vodafone UK, told Cable.co.uk: “The voluntary industry commitment we have agreed with the Government today will deliver 90% of the UK’s land mass with voice services and a major improvement in mobile internet coverage as well.”

Image courtesy of Andy Peacock

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