The government is pushing ahead with plans to force mobile operators to provide ‘national roaming’ so that those living in the most remote parts of the UK can access a mobile signal.
The government wants the operators to allow people to ‘roam’ across networks. For example, an EE customer in an area with no mobile signal from EE would move across to Vodafone.
The government mooted such an idea earlier this summer, which was met with scorn by the mobile industry. However, culture secretary Sajid Javid has launched a consultation on the proposal, hoping that it will gain traction.
“It can’t be right that in a fifth of the UK, people cannot use their phones to make a call. The government isn’t prepared to let that situation continue,” he said.
“We’ve been talking to the mobile companies about the problem and they are working with us to find a solution.”
However, the mobile phone companies have already shot the plan down, describing it as unfeasible and unworkable.
A spokesperson from EE said that, while the company recognises the importance of good mobile coverage in rural areas, national roaming is a "flawed concept".
"This will deteriorate network reliability for tens of millions across the UK, plus it also risks prices rising, which customers understandably won’t tolerate," they added.
Vodafone was even more scathing, releasing a statement barely concealing its incredulity that the government is still keen on the notion of national roaming.
“As Vodafone and the other UK mobile operators have told the government directly on a number of occasions, national roaming will not provide the people of the UK with better quality voice and mobile internet coverage," the firm said.
"In fact, it would make coverage and quality significantly worse from the customers' perspective, with a much higher risk of dropped calls, lower battery life and negative impact on services such as voicemail."
Vodafone and the other operators have also told the government that the idea of national roaming is not the same as international roaming as it is far more complex and time-consuming to implement.
Vodafone also questioned the commercial wisdom of such a move. "National roaming would also harm the business case for further investment in rural coverage," the firm said.
"Why should any operator invest in providing better coverage for the benefit of a competitor?"
Ovum analyst Matthew Howett backed the operators, highlighting several problems with the plans.
"The government’s preferred solution of ’national roaming' to deal with mobile not-spots, while sounding attractive to those with coverage issues, is a messy solution that ought to be abandoned," he said.
"The cost, complexity and side effects of national roaming make it such an unworkable fix that the industry thought it had been dropped.
"While it might work when you travel abroad, it isn’t a solution to dealing with poor mobile coverage domestically."
Howett also noted that making operators open their networks for local roaming would be costly to implement, and comes as the operators face sizeable spectrum use fee hikes.
"You may expect the operators to suggest that this money might be better spent improving the issue of not-spots," he said.
The consultation for the national roaming idea is open until 26 November.
Moon's dark side is mountainous, rugged and never visible from the Earth
The groundwater basins in some areas of Tehran have been damaged irreversibly
This is the first time that any spacecraft on Mars has recorded air vibrations on the planet
Arctic sea ice is thickening at a faster rate during winter, thus slowing down long-term decline: NASA
But, the seasonal ice growth could only delay the demise of the Arctic ice cap for a few more decades