EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have pledged to invest £5 billion into mobile infrastructure and guarantee voice and text coverage across 90 percent of the UK by 2017. The government said no public money will be used to fund the scheme.
The operators said they will increase full coverage for all mobile services from 69 percent to 85 percent of the UK between now and then and improve signal strength.
Many areas will receive better data coverage, some of them for the first time, the government promised.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the agreement will halve partial ‘not spots’ with poor mobile coverage and reduce areas with zero coverage by two-thirds.
The operators have agreed to make the deal legally binding by accepting amended licence conditions which are enforceable by Ofcom.
The project was supposed to ensure basic mobile coverage everywhere by March 2015. However just two base stations had been built as of October and the scheme has been delayed until spring 2016.
Arqiva, which won the contract to carry out the project, was tasked with developing an implementation plan to cover as many black spots as possible. However it soon became clear some of the data provided to Arqiva to underpin the scheme was incomplete or inaccurate.
Arqiva has insisted the situation is being remedied. A spokesperson said they have “produced more detailed data and we are now making good progress in acquiring suitable sites, winning planning consents and building and commissioning MIP base stations”.
Today the government said it will allow “many” of its freehold buildings to be used as sites for mobile infrastructure to support implementation for the £150 million project.
On today’s announcement, culture secretary Sajid Javid said: “Too many parts of the UK regularly suffer from poor mobile coverage, leaving them unable to make calls or send texts.
“Government and businesses have been clear about the importance of mobile connectivity, and improved coverage, so this legally binding agreement will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves.”
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