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Mobile coverage gaps turn mobile phones into 'expensive paperweights'

Government consults on how to plug mobile notspots with £150m pot
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor on

Government consults on how to plug mobile notspots with £150m pot

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Government consulting on plugging the UK's mobile voice notspots
Photo: Shutterstock

The government is asking the mobile industry how coverage gaps or 'notspots' can be plugged using the £150m pot of public money it announced last year.

In October, Chancellor George Osborne announced the funding would be used to boost the number of mobile masts to plug gaps in mobile coverage across the country - with the aim of extending coverage to make a phone call to 99 per cent of the UK population.

The government estimates between five and 10 per cent of consumers and businesses live and work in areas where existing mobile coverage is poor or non-existent - often in rural or remote locations.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey today published the Mobile Infrastructure Project: Industry Stakeholder Engagement consultation document which asks the mobile industry to respond to questions on where the notspots are; the best approach to plugging them; the different infrastructure options; and to help ensure the chosen method is one that can be used by all operators.

The consultation will run for 30 days, with procurement of additional mast sites due to begin this spring, with users seeing the benefit from early 2013, according to the government. The notspot rollout project will be completed by 2015.

"There are areas of the UK where no mobile coverage is provided by any MNO [mobile network operator] and other areas where there is low quality coverage which results in a poor level of customer experience," the consultation document notes.

"In certain areas of the UK, particularly rural areas, there is a limited commercial case for market-driven private investment to achieve an enhancement to coverage and quality of service."

"For as many as one in 10 people a mobile is little more than an expensive paperweight in their own home," Vaizey added in a statement. "The government is determined to provide the UK with the communications infrastructure we need to live, work and drive economic growth in the digital age."

While the notspot plugging project is only aiming to ensure a basic level of mobile connectivity, suitable for voice calls and texting, the government notes it is also hoping to future-proof the investment - by seeking to make any new infrastructure suitable for upgrading to 4G mobile services.

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