Next round of spectrum auctions will be split between the bandwidth that is available and coverage obligations to achieve
Ofcom has announced new plans to incentivise networks to improve the coverage it rolls out to rural areas of the country.
According to the latest ‘Connected Nations’ report from the regulator, 77 per cent of homes and offices receive ‘good’ coverage of at least 2Mbps from all four networks.
In the next round of 5G auctions, Ofcom are planning to sell two lots of coverage obligations for a potential discount of £400 million in order to improve cellular coverage in rural areas.
Ofcom said that it plans to auction two bands of spectrum in around 12 months as well as the coverage obligations. One band will be the 700Mhz airwaves that are well suited to providing good-quality mobile coverage indoors and outside across open areas and the 3.6Ghz to 3.8Ghz band that can be used to offer 5G.
The obligations that networks can bid for will mean that the winners will have to up its individual coverage to 90 per cent of the UK improving coverage to at least 140,000 homes and offices in the process.
Five hundred new masts will also be erected in areas of poor coverage as part of the auctions to avoid operators complying to coverage obligations by boosting the signals from existing masts.
Ofcom spectrum group director Philip Marnick said: “Mobile coverage has improved across the UK this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a signal. We’re particularly concerned about mobile reception in rural areas.
“As we release new airwaves for mobile, we’re planning rules that would extend good mobile coverage to where it’s needed. That will help ensure that rural communities have the kind of mobile coverage that people expect in towns and cities, reducing the digital divide.”