Government intervention could be required to ensure the UK's roads have adequate mobile broadband coverage after a report from Ofcom found many major transport routes lack signal.
The regulator surveyed the state of mobile coverage on the UK’s roads over the summer. It found that while motorway coverage for 2G and 3G coverage is good, the same cannot be said for A and B roads.
For example, for 2G connections on A and B roads, four per cent have no signal from any operator, while only 77 per cent have signal from all operators. This means many millions of people could find themselves without a connection if they break down.
The situation for 3G is even worse. On A and B roads nine per cent have no signal from any operator, while only 35 per cent have coverage from all operators. The situation is especially bad in Scotland where 28 per cent of A and B roads have no 3G signal at all.
Ofcom said 4G rollouts, with stricter coverage obligations, could solve this, but it would continue to assess the situation to see if government intervention is needed. Some of the £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project funds are also being used to improve coverage on roads.
Ofcom will also examine the state of rail coverage to help ensure plans to invest more in signals for phone users on trains are carried out in the most relevant areas.
The chief executive of Ofcom, Ed Richards, said it was important that every aspect of the UK's digital needs was considered when looking at availability and coverage.
“We know consumers increasingly expect superfast speeds, but it’s also important to make sure people can connect over a very wide area. That is why we are doing everything we can to support moves to improve coverage in difficult areas such as roads and train lines," he said.
A spokesman for the AA told V3 the organisation would welcome any moves to improve mobile coverage on roads, for both motorists – when not driving – and for its patrols, which use 2G and 3G connections to send positional data to base.
The concerns were raised in the Infrastructure Report update from Ofcom. One area where there is no lack of demand and investment is public Wi-Fi hotspots. Ofcom revealed there are now 34,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK, more than double that of 2012 when there were 16,000.
Ofcom said that with locations ranging from restaurants, hotels, banks, supermarkets and coffee shops adding Wi-Fi in-store, there is now more opportunity for users to move off mobile networks when out and about.
As such, a whopping two million gigabytes of data is sent over Wi-Fi hotspots every month, compared with 0.75 million gigabytes in 2012.
Furthermore, for fixed connection, just under three quarters of UK firms can now access superfast broadband services. This has risen from 62 per cent of homes to 72 per cent of homes since 2012.
At present, 22 per cent of connections are classed as superfast with 4.8 million customers using fibre services. This is double that of 2012 when 2.1 million superfast connections were registered.
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