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Mobile network operators forced to commit to 90% coverage of UK landmass by 2017

Monday, February 2nd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The UK’s four mobile network operators are now legally committed to providing voice and text coverage across 90% of the country by the end of 2017.

This should cut the number of ‘not-spots’ – areas with no mobile coverage – by two thirds and the number of ‘partial not-spots’ – areas not served by all four networks – by half.

An agreement with the government announced in December saw EE, O2, Three and Vodafone agree to invest £5bn to improve mobile coverage.

The licences needed to operate a mobile network in the UK have now been changed to reflect the commitment.

The four networks already meet a 3G coverage obligation to reach 90% of UK premises but the new agreement gives them two years to reach 90% of the country's landmass, improving the level of outdoor coverage.

O2, as part of its licence, has to provide indoor 4G coverage for 98% of the UK's population by 2017 and the other three operators have said they will match this obligation.

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.”

The agreement will see full coverage from all four operators increase from 69% to 85% and a stronger signal for 2G, 3G and 4G services, making voice calls more reliable.

'Maximise coverage'

EE’s chief executive Olaf Swantee said: “We are delighted that this agreement has been completed, ensuring that once rolled out, our customers will be able to stay connected in even more places up and down the country.”

Derek McManus, chief operating officer of O2, said: “A partnership between government and the mobile operators is required to maximise coverage across the UK, so this agreement is a good outcome for our customers.

“It will support investment in our network, while ensuring that strong competition remains between the different networks.”

Dave Dyson, chief executive of Three, said: “This agreement reflects the strength of our network today, our plans for the future and our commitment to bring its benefits to more people and more places than ever before.”

A Vodafone UK spokesperson said: “We support the government’s objective of delivering better coverage to rural areas including partial not spots.

“We now expect the government to reform and modernise the Electronic Communications Code to ensure it better supports our ability to invest, build, upgrade and maintain our fixed and mobile network.”

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