HomeInsightsOfcom publishes plans for improving mobile coverage and supporting 5G in UK

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Ofcom has published updates on its work to improve mobile services and support the rollout of 5G in the UK.

Ofcom says that placing coverage obligations on mobile companies plays an important part in ensuring more people and businesses can receive good coverage.

In 2014, all four mobile network operators agreed with the UK Government an obligation, which meant mobile phone calls could be made in 90% of the country’s landmass by the end of 2017, using measures of mobile coverage in place at the time. Separately, Ofcom required O2 to provide 4G mobile data coverage to 98% of premises across the UK by the end of 2017.

In that time, mobile companies have invested in their networks and, following an assessment of relevant coverage data, Ofcom has written to all operators to confirm they have complied with the obligations.

While the previous obligations have resulted in improvements, Ofcom now wants mobile companies to go further and is planning new requirements for when it releases spectrum in the 700 MHz band for mobile services, which it expects to auction in late 2019.

Ofcom is proposing that winning bidders of some of the spectrum would have to roll out improved 4G mobile coverage in rural areas, including for properties that are currently unable to access good coverage from any operator. The proposals would also require these mobile companies to provide better coverage in each of the UK’s nations. Ofcom is consulting on the proposals. The consultation is open until 4 May 2018.

As Ofcom announced in its Connected Nations report in December 2017, it has changed the way it measures coverage to reflect the growing usage and expectations of smartphone users. This means that the coverage obligations Ofcom is proposing will extend coverage much further, bringing improved mobile reception to more rural, harder-to-reach areas.

Ofcom has also published details of how it will support the rollout of 5G. This includes its plans to release different spectrum bands to fuel 5G. The spectrum bands Ofcom will make available will enable both mobile operators and other innovative companies to develop more revolutionary services that 5G may support, such as services in manufacturing, transport and healthcare.

Ofcom has also launched its Innovation and Trial Portal, which will make it easier to access spectrum to test innovative technologies, applications and business models. To access the consultation, click here. To access details on 5G, click here. To access the Innovation and Trial Portal, click here.