Operators had wanted 98 per cent coverage by this year as part of equipment share deal in 2012
O2 and Vodafone UK look set to miss their targets on providing 98 per cent of the population with 2G, 3G and 4G coverage by the end of the year.
The operators first set the ambitious target back in 2012, when O2 CEO Ronan Dunne and the now former CEO of Vodafone Guy Laurence announced the pair had agreed to combine their 18,000 network towers and masts to create a single national grid.
They stated at the time that the move would help reduce significant running costs – estimated at more than £1 billion by analysts – speed up their 4G rollout plans and achieve the 98 per cent by 2017 target set by Ofcom two-years early.
However, latest figures obtained by Mobile News show both operators remain well short of their target, with just 63 per cent population coverage.
Neither Vodafone or O2 would concede defeat in their attempts, but admitted their thoughts are geared more towards 2017, and reiterated the need for government support in removing obstacles.
A Vodafone spokesperson told Mobile News: “We recognise the importance of mobile connectivity which is why we spent more than £1 billion last year on our network across the country and will spend a similar amount this year.
“However, we are also very aware that in certain areas of the UK it may be more difficult to deliver the level of coverage our customers expect. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as the geography of the area and difficulties in finding sites following discussions with potential landlords.”
O2 claims to be spending £1.5 million a day on its network and is the only operator legally obligated to achieve 98 per cent indoor coverage based on its terms and conditions from the 4G spectrum in 2012. A spokesperson for the operator played down the original claims made by Dunne.
“Our target was up to two years before the anticipated regulatory requirement of 98 per cent population coverage by 2017,” the spokesperson said.
“All the major operators agreed with the government at the end of last year to deliver 90 per cent geographic coverage by the end of 2017 and in return they have agreed to help remove some of the barriers that prevent operators from rolling out coverage further and faster.”
EE, which launched its 4G network in October 2012 – a year earlier than its rivals, has 74 per cent indoor population coverage.
EE shares 14,200 masts with rival operator Three, which is expected to complete its acquisition of O2 in Q2 next year. Three’s 4G coverage currently reaches around 55 per cent of the population, but does not measure signal indoors.