Vodafone has narrowly avoided being fined by UK regulator Ofcom after the operator finally met coverage obligations for 3G services that should have been in place by the end of June 2013.
Ofcom said in a statement that all of the UK's major mobile phone networks are now meeting their 3G coverage obligations. In November, the regulator said EE, 3 UK, Telefónica's O2 UK and Vodafone UK had all agreed to new coverage obligations of 90 per cent of the population by June 30, 2013. After conducting an assessment of each operator, Ofcom found that EE, 3 UK and O2 had met the obligation but said Vodafone fell 1.4 per cent short of the 90 per cent coverage requirement.
Vodafone subsequently agreed a plan with Ofcom to bring itself into compliance with the 3G coverage obligation by the end of 2013. This involved work to upgrade 129 mobile transmitter sites. Ofcom said it has now found that Vodafone met its obligation ahead of this deadline, and has decided that it will not take any further action on this occasion.
Ofcom is currently pursuing a five-point plan to ensure that operators meet their mobile coverage requirements, and this includes the role that LTE will play in delivering "near universal mobile broadband coverage" within the next few years.
For example, by 2017 at the latest O2 UK is required to extend LTE coverage into indoor areas in which at least 98 per cent of the UK population lives. This is expected to cover more than 99 per cent of the UK population when outdoors.
"Other mobile operators have also indicated that they intend to match this coverage," Ofcom added. "This will help to extend mobile broadband coverage into many parts of the UK that are still underserved by 3G."
Ofcom also announced in October that it would be reviewing 3G network coverage across the UK after figures indicated that just 35 per cent of the length of the UK's A and B roads are served by all four 3G networks, and 9 per cent have no 3G coverage at all.
Ofcom said it will also be carrying out research to measure the performance of 3G and LTE mobile networks by assessing the average mobile broadband speeds received by 3G and LTE customers. New data on the performance of 3G and LTE networks will be published in the spring.
The regulator will also carry out research into the quality of mobile reception and coverage, such as information on the proportion of "dropped" calls that consumers experience.
Ofcom talks up mobile price falls following criticism of plan to hike 2G spectrum fees
Vodafone UK fails to reach 3G target
Ofcom slams operators over 3G coverage on roads, allows early contract exit
EE slashes LTE prices, warns on capex cuts
Ofcom threatens fivefold increase in UK spectrum fees starting in 2014