UK government discusses national roaming deal with operators to tackle poor coverage

The UK government is looking into creating a national roaming agreement between the country's mobile network operators in an effort to improve poor signal coverage in certain areas.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed it is talking to EE, Vodafone UK and 3 UK about allowing users in areas with poor mobile coverage to be able to roam onto other operators' networks so calls are not dropped and overall quality can be improved.

The national roaming agreement is a further development on top of the department's Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP), a £150 million (€187 million/$255 million) investment scheme focused on funding mobile infrastructure in areas of the UK where there is zero mobile coverage, as opposed to some mobile coverage.

Spokesman for the DCMS, Paul Conroy, told FierceWireless:Europe: "While MIP is ongoing, we have been talking to mobile operators about other options as well, and the national roaming agreement is one of those other things being discussed."

No timeline has been confirmed for the potential rollout of a national roaming agreement, with Conroy commenting that "discussions are ongoing...We won't support a timetable on it."

The DCMS declined to explain what further ideas are under consideration to solve the issue of poor mobile phone services in the UK.

Meanwhile the first site to go live under MIP was the rural North Yorkshire village of Weaverthorpe in September 2013. The overall project received State Aid clearance from the European Commission in December 2012.

In May 2013, communication infrastructure and media services company, Arqiva, was announced as the contractor that would build new site infrastructure under the MIP umbrella. EE, Telefónica O2, 3 UK and Vodafone UK are providing coverage for the sites as well as funding their operating costs for the 20-year life of the project. MIP is expected to deliver an estimated £340 million in economic benefits.

For more:
- see this ISPreview article
- see this DCMS release on the launch of MIP
- see this DCMS release on the first MIP site to go live

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