Ofcom Promises 98 Percent Indoor 4G Coverage

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Ofcom CEO Sharon White wants nearly all of the UK should be able to get a 4G signal by the end of 2017

Ofcom CEO Sharon White has pledged to ensure 98 percent of all homes and businesses in the UK can receive an indoor 4G signal by the end of 2017.

“We know mobile data is increasingly vital to businesses. So we’ve set rules to ensure that virtually all homes and offices – 98 percent – must receive an indoor 4G mobile signal by the end of next year,” she told the Federation of Small Business (FSB) National Conference in Glasgow. “That must include at least 95 percent of homes and offices in each UK nation – including Scotland.

“Providing 4G across the Highlands and Islands is more challenging, but no less important. Wherever Ofcom can help meet those challenges, we will. Today we are launching a consultation to increase the use of ‘mobile repeaters’ – devices that boost mobile signals.”

Better mobile coverage

Sharon White Ofcom CEOEE, the UK’s largest 4G operator, currently covers 95 percent of the UK population with LTE – although this figure is for outdoor coverage. Small cells, femtocells, Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) and low frequency spectrum have all been touted as ways of ensuring a better signal indoors.

All four major operators have committed to invest a combined £5 billion to improve rural coverage as part of a legally-binding agreement to extend a basic voice and text service over 2G to 90 percent of the UK’s landmass by 2017. However full 4G coverage will only reach 85 percent by that time.

Prime Minister David Cameron recently hinted at the introduction of new legislation that would make it easier for operators to build masts and other mobile infrastructure, however Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey has told Parliament that the £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) had not been a success.

Small business broadband

The FSB has welcomed White’s comments, claiming the organisation’s own research suggests that even when small businesses get a decent connection, their superfast broadband or mobile service is often poorer than those received by large enterprises, preventing their ability to do more online.

Recent research suggested slow broadband costs small business employees 15 minutes every single day. The government has promised a business broadband review and there have been moves to raise the universal service obligation to 10Mbps.

“Large numbers of small firms are using new digital technology to revolutionise the way they do business, but the market is still not delivering for all and this is acting as a brake on the ambitions of many businesses,” said Mike Cherry, FSB policy director. “Ofcom clearly gets the importance of small businesses – but we need to keep up the pressure and help them to deliver.

“Poor quality of service is a major barrier to firms who want to do more online. Ofcom is right to focus on raising minimum standards and making it easier to navigate the market.”

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