Ofcom has announced that mobile phone users will now be able to call emergency service numbers 999 and 112 from another network if their own network is unavailable. This was previously not the case.
The regulator is also looking into text services for disabled users. The moves are part of Ofcom’s strategy to ensure availability, take-up and effective use of communications services across, following its own that claims to show there is more to be done to achieve widespread access and inclusion across the UK.
The move to make emergency numbers accessible in areas where a user’s network is not available follows proposals set out earlier this year. The phone will automatically switch over to whichever network operator has the best signal in the area the person is calling from.
Ofcom said this would provide added reassurance to consumers should they need to call 999 or 112 and will be of particular benefit to those in rural areas across the UK. The move is the result of a joint effort between Ofcom, the mobile networks, emergency authorities and the fixed networks who act as call handling agents.
Ofcom’s next initiative is to evaluate the existing text relay service which enables hearing and speech impaired people to use a telephone.
It is also to address mobile coverage “not-spots”, which appear in some rural areas in the UK. Ofcom is to investigate the causes of these “not-spots”, and undertake research to explore the quality of mobile broadband services.
The regulator has also launched a public campaign for the promotion of “Digital Participation” as part of a Government plan to increase uptake of digital services, in line with recommendations.
Digital Britain Minister Stephen Timms said: “The benefits to being online – access to online health, financial, recruitment and communication services – can significantly enhance a person’s quality of life both economically and socially. I am pleased to be part of the Consortium for the Promotion of Digital Participation which will lead this project to ensure all the UK can enjoy the benefits of the internet for a brighter digital future.”
Later this year Ofcom will publish a review on the implementation of the existing universal service obligation for fixed-line services to determine whether the way in which the services are offered and funded are meeting the needs of consumers.