LTE spectrum auction should deal with UK ‘not-spots’ says panel

An advisory group is calling on the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom to ensure that the LTE spectrum auction scheduled for 2013 deals with coverage ‘not-spots’ across the country.

The Communications Consumer Panel is asking Ofcom to enforce coverage obligations on the operators taking part in next year’s LTE spectrum auction for each of the four UK nations; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The suggestion is that money be retained from the spectrum auction and a reverse auction run in order to provide upgraded rural coverage.

The panel said that the patchy coverage in many places is causing problems for small businesses, consumers and those passing through the affected areas. It also highlighted poor coverage for rail users across the country.

Bob Warner, panel chair, said in a statement that, “This is a critical moment, and we have a unique opportunity to resolve the persistent problem of inadequate mobile coverage.  Most places that were mobile coverage not-spots ten years ago are still not-spots today, and the spectrum auction presents perhaps the only chance we have in the next decade to improve coverage in the nations and for rural communities.”

The panel’s reasoning is that regular market forces are not enough to ensure mobile coverage is extended beyond current 2G/3G areas, thus leaving many areas fallow when it comes to broadband connectivity.

“Effective mobile communication is essential for the growth of rural communities and businesses, and we now need an intervention to improve rural services. The potential significant windfall to the Treasury from the spectrum auction presents us with the opportunity to do something about it,” Warner said.

In Germany the winner of the 800MHz digital dividend was required to roll out coverage to rural areas and Hartmut Kremling, CTO of Vodafone Germany recently told that, “LTE 800 is a perfect technology to cover these wide areas quickly and efficiently and we really have great feedback from the people there”.

In the US, Verizon Wireless said it was working with a number of rural carriers to roll out LTE to remote areas as part of the Rural America Program.

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