Government watchdog calls for improved connectivity
UK mobile operators need to prioritise investments in 4G to prevent consumer alienation, according to analysts.
The views come after Ofcom held the spectrum auction on April 5 where all four major operators spent a combined £1.35bn on 4G and 5G airwaves.
Government infrastructure watchdog the National Infrastructure Commission, said the UK is being held back by poor mobile phone connectivity calling an end to “digital deserts”.
The UK ranked behind nations such as Albania, Panama, Peru and Romania in 4G coverage, ranking 54th in 2016. According to Ofcom at the end of 2016 there were 52.4 million 4G subscriptions, the population of the UK is 65 million.
CCS Insight senior analyst Kester Mann said current mobile coverage still has “room for improvement” particularly in rural areas and transport.
“There so much that can be done on 4G and customers aren’t shouting about wanting 5G, MNOs need to be careful of that.
“It’s all well to say we’ve got 5G, but then customers can turn around and say they haven’t got 4G where they live and that’s really dire.”
The calls for improvement follow the decision taken by Vodafone to test out the 5G spectrum it had acquired in the auction earlier this month.
Vodafone head of networks Kye Prigg said the network expects data traffic to grow 85 per cent this year and that Vodafone will “aim to bring customers some of the benefits of 5G” in the near future.
uSwitch senior commercial manager Ernest Doku agreed 4G coverage needs to improve in the UK: “The second half of this round of spectrum auctions was to set the stage for 5G which is faster speeds, but isn’t addressing the all important coverage issue for consumers.
“Speeds are great, speeds are exciting and speeds set the stage for new and exciting things but coverage is the key. If you can’t get signal at all then it’s not a discussion worth having.”
IDC European mobility associate vice president John Delaney said 4G still needs nurturing. There will, he says, be a lag before 5G handsets even make it to Europe.
“Operators need to keep pace with 4G improvements. 4G user numbers are still growing and will do so for the next few years.”
“The resources are there to test out 5G. But if we’re talking about the next couple of years and a matter of prioritising investment, clearly the priority should be in 4G because that’s where the customers are.”