EE: National roaming will slow 4G rollout by up to two years


Research suggests that combined with the proposed increase in licence fees, investment in the mobile sector could be reduced by up to £582 million 

EE has released a report which estimates that national roaming could delay the rollout of 4G by 18-24 months, with its introduction only increasing coverage by 2-4 per cent of the UK geography.

It comes just three weeks after the mobile operators slammed a proposal by the Government that could result in a national roaming network being implemented to improve coverage in ‘black spots’. They said it would significantly impact on network reliability and resilience, and would be complex and slow to implement.

The research, commissioned by Capital Economics, is the operator’s response to the Department of Media, Culture and Sport’s consultation on national roaming, states that coupled with an increase in annual licence fees, could reduce investment within the mobile sector by up to £582 million.

It added that it could lead to a reduction in industry capital expenditure of £360 million to £440 million, reducing gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.1 per cent to 0.2 per cent.

The report outlines the economic contribution of the mobile industry. Mobile operators are investing around £5.5 billion to upgrade their networks to 4G over three or four years, in addition to routine maintenance and upgrade work. There are also 35,400 full time equivalent jobs, nearly 140,000 jobs in the UK.

In addition, it says 4G is driving economic growth, with the eventual gains from these mobile services potentially worth up to 0.7 per cent of GDP or £12 billion per year at today’s levels.

An EE spokesperson said: “EE’s consultation response reflects our longstanding view that while we support the ambition to improve rural coverage, the Government‘s proposal for National Roaming is a flawed concept.

“Instead, together with the other major UK network operators, we will propose a solution that helps solve the problem of rural coverage, without any of the technical, economic and competitive barriers of National Roaming.

“If agreed by Government, the joint proposal can be implemented quickly and for less cost, a win-win for the British public.”