Vodafone UK fails to reach 3G target

As operators across Europe race to roll out their new LTE networks, it seems some have forgotten about their existing commitments with regard to 3G. At least that is the case with Vodafone UK, which was raked over the coals by regulator Ofcom this week for being the only one of the country's four mobile network operators to miss its coverage obligations by the end of June.

This follows Ofcom's announcement 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.

In its latest statement, Ofcom 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.

Nonetheless, Vodafone has now put in place a plan to bring itself into compliance with the 3G coverage obligation by the end of 2013, Ofcom said. This will involve rolling out 3G to more mobile masts than Vodafone had originally estimated as being necessary, the regulator added.

Ofcom said it will assess Vodafone's compliance in January 2014 and will thus not take any enforcement action at this stage.

"Ofcom is fully aware of our plans to ensure compliance by the end of this year," a Vodafone spokesperson told the Financial Times. "Our network investment stands at more than £900 million ($1.44 billion) this year alone and we remain on track to deliver indoor coverage across 2G, 3G and 4G to 98 per cent of the population by 2015, two years ahead of the regulator's deadline."

Ofcom also provided more details on LTE coverage plans by the UK's operators, noting that O2 is required to extend LTE coverage into indoor areas in which at least 98 per cent of the UK population lives by 2017 at the latest, while other operators have also indicated that they intend to match this coverage.

Finally, 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.

The research is designed to help consumers understand the performance benefits of LTE over 3G mobile services and assist them in making informed purchasing decisions, Ofcom added.

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

Related Articles:
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EE slashes LTE prices, warns on capex cuts
Ofcom threatens fivefold increase in UK spectrum fees starting in 2014
UK LTE auction comes under spotlight over weak return

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