DCMS scheme for ‘national roaming’ could mean competing networks sharing signal.
The UK’s mobile operators could be forced to pool their networks under new government plans aimed at tackling so called ‘blackpsots’ – areas with no mobile signal.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced plans to extend its funding into providing signal for areas that currently have no coverage.
The new Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, said that he wants mobile phone companies to introduce national roaming which would allow customers to switch to an alternative network if their own was not available, as happens when they are abroad.
However, the UK’s networks have not been overwhelmingly receptive to the idea, saying that it would remove any incentive for them to improve their coverage by building new phone masts in areas where coverage could be shared.
The costs of ensuring that networks from different operators, which often broadcasting on different wavelengths, mesh together could also be expensive, meaning customers might experience a rise in bills.
Although there has been little response to the suggestions from the UK’s networks, several have re-asserted their commitment to ensuring their customers get the best coverage possible.
Three, which says its network covers around 98% of the population, insisted it was widening its coverage.
"We support the principle of expanding coverage to address areas less well served and are in discussions with government about the most effective means to deliver that," a spokesperson said.
EE concurred, saying that, "Improving rural coverage for basic voice calls across the UK is already part of our best network strategy."
"We are investing £275m modernising our infrastructure to make phone calls available in more places, and this year alone we’re rolling out new voice-over-Wi-Fi services and trialling new voice-over-4G solutions", a spokesperson from the company told CBR.
A DCMS spokesman said: "The government has made clear it wants to ensure the UK has world-class mobile phone coverage as part of our investment in infrastructure for the long-term economic plan.
"We are investing up to £150m to improve mobile coverage in areas where there is currently no coverage from any of the Mobile Network Operators.
"Of course we want to look at what more can be done in areas with poor coverage."