Ofcom spectrum auction not sufficient for mobile coverage target, Parliament told

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Ofcom plans not sufficient to reach mobile coverage target mansoor hanif

Regulator’s CTO has called for ‘innovative solutions’ to reach target

A senior Ofcom officer has said its current spectrum auction will not be sufficient on its own for the UK to reach 95 per cent geographical mobile coverage.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, the telecoms regulator’s CTO Mansoor Hanif told MSPs that the problem of parts of the UK not having any signal at all was “really hard to solve”.

The current deadline for the target is the end of 2022. Achieving the target is expected to boost UK GDP by £75 billion.

Hanif said: “I think we are very clear that we are not going to get to the 95 per cent. The reality is, it is improving but clearly not fast enough and demands are increasing.

“The Government has set a target for 95 per cent geographical coverage, which is a revolution in the way we measure coverage because we would only target coverage to where people actually lived, to houses.”

He added that towers were not an ideal solution to the problem, as they would have to be installed in national parks and places of natural beauty. Instead, he called for innovative solutions, saying: “I don’t really think anyone wants to build thousands of ugly towers in national parks. If there are smarter ways to achieve that [coverage] through innovation then I think we should be looking at that.”

Ofcom recently decided to reduce the geographical target in its coverage obligations in Scotland from at least 76 per cent to at least 74 per cent, and in England and Northern Ireland from 92 per cent to 90 per cent.

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee member Stewart Stevenson MSP (SNP) criticised the decision to reduce the target. He said: “I would say that we should have no improvements in telephony services in cities, of any kind, including 5G, until we get decent rural coverage.”

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