Mobile operators agree to tackle phone 'not-spots'

The government has finalised a deal that puts a legal requirement on EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone to ensure they provide mobile coverage across the country.

The UK government says it has finalised a "landmark deal" with four mobile network operators which it hopes will deliver better mobile coverage and put an end to 'not-spots' - areas where no mobile coverage is available - for the entire country.

Mobile operators EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone have now accepted a legally binding amended license which Ofcom believes will allow them to "enforce consistent signal strength" from all the operators "across the whole area they service".

Although the agreement was originally secured in December, the recent announcement represents its final ratification.

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According to government, the licence variations commit the four operators "to providing voice coverage across 90 percent of the UK's landmass by the end of 2017". They have also collectively agreed to a £5bn investment programme to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017, halving the areas currently blighted by patchy coverage as a result of partial 'not-spots'.

In light of the variations that already exist in mobile coverage, Ofcom said it "will shortly consult further on the annual licence fees for the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum bands".

Back in 2010 the government directed Ofcom to revise its fees to reflect full market value after the completion of the 4G auction. The bands are used for 2G and 3G, including voice calls, and some 4G services.

The announcement comes at a crucial time of consolidation in the industry with BT announcing today it will buy EE and the possibility that Three and O2 may merge as well.

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