UK ministers to meet telecoms bosses over mobile coverage plans

Further light could be shed this week on UK government plans to improve nationwide mobile coverage during a meeting between ministers and telecoms bosses expected to take place before Wednesday.

According to the Financial Times, culture secretary Sajid Javid is expected to attend the meeting along with Oliver Letwin, minister for government policy. Leading executives from the UK's four leading mobile network operators--Vodafone UK, O2 UK, Three UK and EE--have also been asked to attend, the FT reported citing unnamed sources.

Consultation on new legislation to force mobile operators to improve coverage around the country was launched in early November, with a national roaming plan to improve poor signal coverage in rural areas mooted as one possible option. That option is not popular with operators, which have previously said they are working with the government to look at alternative ways of improving coverage.

According to the FT, the operators have now submitted separate responses to the consultation as well as a joint proposal to tackle patchy signals. In return for enabling improved coverage, operators are seeking a reform of planning laws that currently prevent them from building higher masts, and a reduction in a proposed increase in annual licence fees.

The GSMA has also waded into the debate, saying there are alternative solutions for tackling the issue of partial not-spots in the UK outside of "mandated national roaming", which it judges to be technically complex and expensive. The association added that such a measure would also impede law enforcement activities.

"We believe the solution to tackling partial not-spots is through continued investment in our mobile networks, enabled by a favourable regulatory environment. In our commitment to ensuring the best possible consumer experience, the GSMA and its members are actively engaged in a range of ongoing initiatives aimed at improving 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and the capability of mobile infrastructure, both in the UK and around the world," said Tom Phillips, chief regulatory officer at the GSMA.

For more:
- see this Financial Times article (sub. req.)

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