Should more be done to improve the UK’s mobile coverage? A recent Ofcom report suggests there aren’t many people living in ‘not-spots’ – so does lack of coverage in those areas really matter?
We live in a mobile age, where increasing numbers of us are casting off the curly-wired shackles of landlines in favour of flexible mobile communications.
In fact, my colleague Ben Stevens spent a good 400+ words arguing that, in his opinion, landlines are archaic and virtually obsolete.
I, like many of you, disagree with him. Indeed, a number of you made the very valid point that mobiles are little more than a useless ornament in parts of the UK that lack signal.
Commenter Kevin Thomas has suffered from this very problem, ‘I live in an area where there is very limited mobile coverage (a friend of mine has found a “Magic Window” in the local pub where he can leave his mobile to receive texts).’ And so does Charlie Bucket, ‘Would love to ditch my landline but can’t as coverage in my house is worse than on the moon (apparently!).’
Ofcom’s recently-released mobile ‘not-spot’ report reinforces this argument. There’s still 3% of the UK population, or 9% of the country by landmass, that can’t get a basic 2G mobile signal from any operator. And large parts of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have drawn the short straw.
As for mobile broadband, 3G mobile coverage is even less extensive, being out of rearch for 24% of the country.
There are more mobile coverage issues
But complete geographical not-spots are only part of the picture. Other mobile coverage issues arise across the UK, even in parts of heavily-populated areas like London, and include:
- Lack of provider choice in areas that are only served by one or two operators.
- What Ofcom calls ‘Interrupted coverage on the move’, such as drop-outs when travelling by train.
- Dodgy indoor coverage, where the signal is fine outside a building but drops away when you go inside.
Ofcom says that mobile not-spots are high on its priority list and that it’s working to improve matters where it can. But to a certain extent its hands are tied since it has no direct power to make mobile operators increase their coverage.
Plus, new mobile base stations don’t come cheap, so you can understand operators’ reluctance to build them in remote areas where return on investment will be poor.
Could you live without mobile coverage?
It may take direct government intervention to bring about 100% UK mobile coverage. Given the high costs involved that’s unlikely to happen unless there’s a risk of huge consumer detriment if it doesn’t.
So to all those mobile not-spotters out there, is complete mobile coverage a vital investment for the UK’s future, or could you quite happily live your life without ever owning a mobile phone?