Specifically highlighted were the rental costs that rural landlords inflict on operators
Operators claimed that rules around infrastructure and spectrum are costing networks millions of pounds and are impeding their efforts to achieve unilateral coverage in the UK.
Representatives from EE, Vodafone and Telefonica UK told the Westminster eForum, held to discuss the future of the mobile market, that the cost of infrastructure vastly outweighs the return on investment and is a reason why rural coverage continues to be an issue in the UK.
Specifically highlighted were the rental costs that rural landlords inflict on operators as they know the potential fine that Ofcom will impose if operators do not adhere to coverage obligations.
EE consumer regulation director Inge Hansen said: “Every land owner out there will know that an MNO needs to meet a target with the threat of a fine of 10 per cent of turnover if they don’t meet it.
“Landowners will jack up the rent demands putting MNOs in a ransom position that will only get worse. We need cohesion and alignment of ideology; this is a huge issue for the UK.”
Telefonica UK head of regulatory affairs Lawrence Wardle said that O2 “ thinks there are better approaches” to attempting to achieve better coverage in the UK than attaching obligations to spectrum auctions, a point backed by Vodafone head of government affairs and sustainable business Paul Morris.
Morris went on to add: “We build a network out of private investment, we face significant new demands on that network, and in the process we are expected to deliver large sums of contributions to the UK exchequer in the running of that network.
“I think what we need to do it move on from the 2G and 3G model in terms of the policy regulation that we face and really reform it, which means removing red tape and barrier busting, which is all really important. But we also need more property and planning law reform, reduction in rates, access to public sector sites and buildings and street furniture at affordable prices.
“That will help us run the network we run today but not help us build the network we need for tomorrow.”