The government and the mobile industry have identified between 900 and 1,000 mobile voice not-spots across the UK after a consultation on how best to spend £150m put aside to provide nationwide network coverage.
Network infrastructure firm Arqiva has been involved in these discussions since the consultation closed in February and its managing director for government, mobile and enterprise, Nicolas Ott, revealed the extent of the coverage blackspots to V3 on Wednesday.
He said the findings had thrown up one or two surprising locations of where coverage was non-existent, but added that covering the vast majority of these areas should prove quite straight-forward.
"The not-spots are not just on the fringes, they are in fact everywhere, it's quite patchy. There is now common agreement among the stakeholders that there are between some 900, 1,000 sites that need infrastructure, but this is not a giant number when you think about it," he said.
"A lot of sites where infrastructure is needed already exist, perhaps used by police or broadcasters, but there has been no economic reason for mobile operators to be there, but they just need to put equipment in and switch it on."
Ott explained that while the not-spot areas have been identified, they will not be made public as the information is commercially sensitive while discussions on the best ways for the funding to be allocated take place with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
V3 contacted the DCMS for confirmation on this but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Ott also outlined Arqiva's rationale as to why it should be chosen to use the £150m to work on the installation of the necessary infrastructure, explaining that it is liaising with DCMS and mobile operators on why it is ideally suited for this role.
"Because we can use pre-existing sites across the UK we can reduce the cost of the rollouts as much of the physical, passive infrastructure, such as the antennas, are already in place, so it's only the active network equipment that would need to be installed," he said.
"In other areas we could possibly reduce duplication of sites by consolidating the infrastructure and letting operators run their networks from this single location."
No official decision is likely to be made until the end of the year, and a second consultation to receive official feedback from relevant stakeholders involved in these discussions is likely to be issued in May, Ott added.
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