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Deadline looms for operators to reach deal on “not spot” dilemma

Saf Malik
February 5, 2020

The government has set a deadline of the end of the week for a deal to be reached

Britains major mobile operators have been warned by the UK government to end so-called “not spots” in rural areas according to the Financial Times.

Prime minister Boris Johnson promised an end to poor mobile phone connections in many parts of the countryside in his 100 days after the general election. He formalised an agreement between the four main mobile operators to create a “shared rural network”.

However, a proposal by BT has threatened Mr. Johnson’s promise which has prompted the director for digital infrastructure at the media department James Heath to deliver a stern warning to operators.

Heath ordered BT’s EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone to “step up negotiations” and finalise a deal by the end of the week. The £1bn project is partly funded by the government and has been close to completion for months.

Although, disputes about how to pay for the sharing of infrastructure have meant a delay in the introduction of the deal.

The disagreements relate to a BT proposal which would see 320 new masts into the agreement and will charge 250 per cent more than the existing commercial rate to access the operators’ towers.

A spokesperson for BT defended its position saying: “We’ve proposed a far simpler and more pragmatic way for a shared rural network to succeed in the 100-day window, plus a way to reduce any taxpayer money by also including new sites that are being built by us in the future.

“It’s now down to the industry to finalise the deal to get it done.”

According to the Financial Times, the chief executives of the four networks are scheduled to hold further talks this week in a bid to solve the current dispute.

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