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Insight

From not-spot to hot-spot?

Ofcom announced on Tuesday of this week that it has varied the licence terms of the UK's four mobile network operators ("MNOs") (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) requiring them to ensure that basic voice Ofcom announced on Tuesday of this week that it has varied the licence terms of the UK's four mobile network operators ("MNOs") (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) requiring them to ensure that basic voice coverage extends to 90% of the UK's geographic land mass by no later than 31 December 2017. This follows the Government reaching a binding agreement with the MNOs in December of last year to improve the coverage they offer to consumers by eliminating 'not-spots' and investing £5bn collectively to improve their voice and data services.

Under the new terms, MNOs are required to ensure that signal strength in any given area of the UK is greater than or equal to the minimum threshold for at least one technology and band combination. By way of example, the minimum signal threshold for the GSM 900 MHz network is 93 dBm. There are four technology and band combinations at present, and it will be sufficient for an MNO to meet one of the signal thresholds to achieve compliance. An MNO can request that new technologies and bands be added to the list and Ofcom will seek to agree such requests and measure compliance accordingly.

MNOs are required to provide Ofcom with written confirmation on or before 31 December 2017 that they have complied with the requirements and the information on which the confirmation is based. Ofcom may also request any underlying data and materials that it considers necessary to check the MNO's assessment. For the purposes of assessment, UK landmass includes islands that are inhabited; however, those islands that are geographically part of the UK but are uninhabited are excluded.

Should an MNO fail to achieve compliance in the given time frame, Ofcom can utilise its enforcement powers and issue a compliance notice.

In addition to the above, Ofcom is currently working with the UK government on a £150 million project to enable the erection of phone masts in mobile hot spots.

The move to improve coverage for consumers is a result of the Ofcom report of August 2014 which revealed that for mobile customers in rural areas, only 67% were happy with the coverage they received compared with 78% of those in urban areas.

 

 

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