The cross-party ‘British Infrastructure Group’ of 90 backbench MPs have asked mobile phone companies operating in the UK to work together to enable customers to roam between networks in places where reception is poor.
Coverage and Reception Problems
The group of MPs have produced a report in support of their proposal which shows that around 17 million customers in the UK have poor mobile phone reception in their area. The report also shows that there are 525 areas of the UK where there is no mobile phone coverage at all.
It is not uncommon for people in poor reception areas of the UK to have to walk or sometimes even drive long distances to find a signal. As well as being disruptive to home or business life, poor mobile phone reception could also be a risk in the case of emergencies.
As well as the leader of the group of MPs (Grant Shapps) describing the poor mobile connectivity in areas of the UK in 2016 as ‘unacceptable’, the group’s report highlighted how mobile phone coverage in the UK has not improved significantly since 2014, when the government agreed a £5 billion investment deal with the network operators. The report also stated that the UK looks likely to fall short of its 90% phone coverage by 2017 target.
The solutions suggested by the MPs and technology commentators focus on network roaming and using SIMs that allow switching to better performing foreign networks.
The MPs have argued to have the law changed to allow domestic roaming in the UK. This means that customers would able to roam between different phone networks to get the best reception. This could reduce costs for customers and help to identify the worst phone networks.
With this idea, customers could use a foreign SIM or a global roaming SIM to enable them to receive better overall network coverage. It has also been suggested that customers could operate a dual SIM phone, which could use a UK SIM for most of the time but could switch to a foreign SIM when there is no signal.
Commentators representing the views of mobile phone companies have said, however, allowing network roaming in the UK would not provide the right incentives for operators to make future investments.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
With mobile devices now being used extensively by businesses and with websites now recording more traffic globally from mobile devices than from desktops, this is an important issue for UK businesses.
The fact that MPs are seeking to highlight things from the network user’s point of view, and to put pressure on mobile operators to allow solutions such as network roaming, is good news for UK businesses. Unfortunately, coverage targets for the UK look set to be missed, so more pressure from MPs and mobile network users may be needed to bring UK coverage and reception up to the standard of other countries.