Vodafone fails government 3G mobile coverage target

Vodafone has become the only mobile operator failing to meet government targets on 3G mobile coverage.

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Vodafone has become the only mobile operator failing to meet government targets on 3G mobile coverage.

Regulator Ofcom has published the outcome of an assessment of whether the UK’s major mobile phone networks are meeting their 3G coverage obligations.

When 3G mobile spectrum licences were awarded in 2000, they included an obligation to roll-out services to 80 percent of the UK by population. But in 2010, the government directed Ofcom to increase this obligation further, requiring operators to cover 90 percent of where the UK population lives.

EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone agreed to reach this new coverage obligation by a deadline of 30 June 2013.

Once this deadline had passed Ofcom conducted an assessment of each operator’s compliance with the new coverage obligation. It has found that EE, Three and O2 have met it.

But Vodafone hasn't, failing by 1.4 percent short of the 90 percent coverage requirement.

Following discussions with Ofcom Vodafone has now put in place a plan to bring itself into compliance with the 3G coverage obligation by the end of 2013.

This will involve rolling out 3G to more mobile masts than Vodafone had originally estimated as being necessary, said Ofcom.

In light of Vodafone’s compliance plans, Ofcom has decided not to take any enforcement action at this stage. It will assess Vodafone’s compliance in January 2014, and depending on the position at that time, the possibility of taking any further action will be considered.

Ofcom says it is also committed to drive wider 4G coverage. By 2017 at the latest, it says, O2 is required to extend 4G coverage into indoor areas in which at least 98 percent of the UK population lives.

This is expected to cover more than 99 percent of the UK population when outdoors. "Other mobile operators have also indicated that they intend to match this coverage. This will help to extend mobile broadband coverage into many parts of the UK that are still underserved by 3G," Ofcom said.

The regulator is also planning to publish average operator 3G and 4G mobile data speeds in spring 2014.