By 2017, mobile subscribers will be able to access wireless voice and text services throughout 90% of the United Kingdom pursuant to a network coverage agreement signed last week by the British government and the four national wireless carriers, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.
The network deal is intended to eliminate current gaps in mobile coverage, particularly in rural areas, where wireless subscribers lack service from their contracted carrier or where no service exists whatsoever. Collectively, the four carriers have pledged to invest £5 billion (U.S. $7.75 billion) in network technology and infrastructure that will boost full geographic coverage from 69% to 85% of the UK and extend partial coverage to at least 90% of the nation. Experts anticipate that the pact will reduce instances of partial “not-spots” (i.e., areas served by one or more but not all of the national carriers) by 50% nationwide and will slash total not-spots (areas lacking wireless service of any kind) by two thirds.
While UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid stressed that the carriers would be bound through license conditions to be enforced by national telecom market regulator Ofcom, Javid said Ofcom would consider cutting annual license fees in exchange for the carriers’ coverage efforts. Javid also confirmed government plans to reform the UK’s “outdated and ineffective” Electronics Communications Code to encourage deployment of new mobile broadband services. Declaring that “government and businesses have been clear about the importance of mobile connectivity and improved coverage,” Javid predicted that the agreement “will give the UK the world-class mobile coverage it needs and deserves.”