The UK Mobile Operators Association (MOA), which represents EE, Three, Vodafone and O2, has said plans for ‘national roaming' to solve the issue of mobile notspots are unfeasible.
The plans were first discussed over the weekend, as the government considers ways to ensure the entire UK can access mobile signal. The £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) is already filling some gaps, but the government has admitted this won't be enough.
As such, it is in talks with operators about the notion of letting customers from rival firms roam onto their networks in areas where no signal from their ‘home' operator is available.
But the MOA, which represents the operators on issues of "radio frequency (RF) health and safety, and related town-planning issues associated with the use of mobile phone technology" said the plans were far-fetched and unworkable.
"National roaming isn't the silver bullet that is being suggested," it said in a statement sent to V3. "It will take years to implement and will not address the problem of notspots. National roaming would be a disincentive to build more infrastructure. And it is technically difficult and expensive to set up national roaming, and customers would face more dropped calls."
Instead the MOA said the government needs to do more to make it economically viable for operators to build infrastructure that would help improve rural coverage.
"There are other, more sensible things the government can do immediately to improve coverage, such as reforming the Electronic Communications Code, and addressing other barriers like the burden of business rates in rural areas, the cost of backhaul and electricity," it said.
The MOA also painted a positive picture of the state of mobile networks in the UK, claiming UK phone users are some of the best off in Europe.
"There is good mobile coverage across the UK, reaching 99 percent of the population. And UK consumers enjoy one of the cheapest telecoms pricing environments in the EU. Operators are investing £3bn in improving their UK networks this year. 4G will also improve mobile broadband coverage in rural areas."
O2 echoed the stance of the MOA, saying that while it was happy to discuss plans for improving mobile coverage with government, national roaming was not the answer.
"National roaming is not the silver bullet to improve areas of no coverage in rural areas," it said.
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