Ofcom has been urged to increase the coverage requirements on mobile operators from 95 to 98 per cent when bidding for 4G spectrum allocations, to ensure that people in remote regions are not "isolated and undermined" by poor mobile coverage.
Rory Stewart, Backbench Business Committee MP for Penrith and the Borders, argued during a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday that there will never be a better chance to secure coverage for rural areas.
"This is the last chance for a generation to provide good mobile broadband coverage for six million people who will not otherwise get it. It is the last chance because, at the end of the month, the Ofcom consultation closes," he said.
"That consultation will determine the coverage obligation imposed on mobile telephone companies for the 800MHz spectrum. This is a spectrum on which we all depend for our smartphones, our iPads and iPhones."
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria, said that superfast broadband access would make his constituency a far more viable location for many businesses.
"Superfast broadband is a way of equalising opportunities in rural areas. Many are effectively displaced because they cannot earn a living there," he said.
"Adequate, or I hope more than adequate, access to superfast broadband would give people the opportunity to set up or work for businesses and to make a decent living."
However, Stewart believes that Ofcom is ignoring these issue by failing to raise the limit from 95 per cent, and is not giving an adequate explanation for doing so.
"Ofcom states in its consultation document that it can see no benefits from extending the coverage further. In fact, it states on page 67 that the costs would outweigh the benefits. Why? Because it is worried about losing money in the auction," he said.
"Ofcom is worried that, when it tries to sell the radio spectrum, which it owns, to the mobile telephone companies and asks them to increase their coverage obligation from 95 to 98 per cent these companies might pay less in the auction."
In fact Ofcom does not technically own the spectrum, but licenses it on behalf of the government. Any money raised from auctions is given to the Treasury.
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