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back to article MP launches ten minute rule bill on in-UK roaming

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark yesterday used the ten-minute rule to present the UK parliament with his ideas on intra-country roaming for mobile phones. The ten-minute rule gives backbench MPs the opportunity to introduce a bill beyond those normally scheduled: the MP has ten minutes to present their case, and an opponent may …

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Anonymous Coward

80 percent?

"Greg Clark reckons that's irrelevant now as 3G licences mandate 80 per cent (population) coverage..."

Telstra (Australia) claims 98% population coverage with its HSDPA network.

Considering the relatively small size of the UK, shouldn't you be demanding 100% coverage?

(Mind you, Telstra charges like an angry rhinocerous, so they can afford it.)

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Boffin

@AC

Given the relative densities you would think it would be easy to get 100% coverage but the remaining population live on scattered islands, in national parks or just in rural areas. These make it very difficult to even place base stations, never mind make them cost effective. Especially as BT as incumbent telco is mandated to provide a voice telephone line to anywhere in the country. No matter how they have to do it. There were cases where a few new houses were built in rural areas and the cost of running lines to them was so great that BT just built a new exchange for them and fibred it into the network!

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@AC

There's something very important you need to know about mobiles in the UK.

First we have things called NIMBYs, these are moaning characters (usually retired - Think Victor Meldew, assuming you know who he is). They complain that the view from their telescope over the trees at the back have been blighted by an ugly phone mast.

Interestingly they're also the first to complain about lack of signal on their mobile phone.

Personally I'd be more impressed to see some phone coverage provided in the underground, it's damn annoying getting messages delivered 2 hours late (the retry period on some networks seems to be based on geological time) just because you happened to be stuck in a packed tube carriage when someone tried to send it to you... Then again, ringing phones could get annoying... How about just have SMS work?

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Coverage

I don't understand this desire to quote "population coverage". I'm not interested in how much of the population are covered; I want to know how much of the LAND MASS is covered. I want to know whether where I am standing has any coverage or not - whether there are people here or not.

Who cares if 99.999999% of the UK population is covered, if when I'm stuck on top of a foggy mountain in Wales, I can't call my Mom and tell her I'll be late for tea?

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Forget in-UK roaming

The real question is why a Vodaphone UK customer who goes abroad and connects to Vodaphone has to pay high roaming costs?

I'm betting for the benefit of share prices and dividends, the companies like to present their worldwide status. So why not for the benefit of customers?

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Tunnels

I think Greg Clark may have failed to notice that being on a train around Tunbridge Wells involves a fair amount of travelling in tunnels, hence the 5 dead spots on a 16 minute ride.

I also suspect that the amount of roaming needed to keep everyone connected would lead to an astonishing load on the HLRs as the register/de-register events occurred, this is manageable with a low percentage of roaming users when they don't change network very often but with everyone flitting from network to network it would soon become very difficult to manage.

As you say, sharing of infrastructure in less well covered spots may well put paid to this idea.

Gets a thumbs down from me anyway.

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@Tom Kelsall

"Who cares if 99.999999% of the UK population is covered, if when I'm stuck on top of a foggy mountain in Wales, I can't call my Mom and tell her I'll be late for tea?"

Or more pertinently, why can't you call the emergency services from halfway down said foggy mountain so you don't end up just late!

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About time too

The fact is that, for any given network operator, large areas of the island of Britain are simply inaccessible. It's vey annoying to find that when you go for a walk, cycle ride or week-end away in the country there's a good chance that you'll be inaccessible. In fact I've considered getting a foreign SIM for this reason. Three cheers say I !

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Boffin

Correction.... but still a bad idea.

If his problem on the Tunbridge Wells train ride was network capacity, then roaming to another operator probably WOULD resolve the issue; but he'd have to disconnect and re-register, which would be "a lot of annoying bother".

Certainly, the load on the HLRs and also SDCCH (from memory - the GSM RF channel used for such signalling) from people registering on whichever service is stronger as they come out of the tube/tunnel/mountain pass, and then re-registering on their own network seconds later, would be huge; particularly in dense areas like London, and this proposal is impractical because of it. Also, imagine how many people would happily launch into a call "without realising [they] were roaming", and then complain about their huge bill afterwards. Lots.

You can also make emergency calls on any network already, regardless of subscription, so not a valid argument either.

Still, it's nice to see an MP with the public's interests at heart, for a change.

This Dude, because he also looks like a nice man.

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Stop

Noooooo

I'm happy living in my mobe-coverage-blackspot as work can't call me on any of Orange, O2 or Vod (I have 3 phones) - I don't wanna roam onto T-Mo and then be contactable!!!

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3 dead spots London to Cambridge

The operators have optimised their network to the Ofcom testing methods. As a result roads are covered better than railways and abissmal indoor coverage is a norm. I am not surprised that he hit a few dead spots into London. I travel on one of the main commuter lines on a casual basis and there are several clearly defined holes in the coverage (different for different ops, but none covers the whole journey).

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@Damian Skeeles

"You can also make emergency calls on any network already, regardless of subscription, so not a valid argument either"

Not true, even if your mobile says it can (probably a Sony Ericsson)

It is dangerous to rely on this feature as it is not supported in the UK, I suspect due to the number of crank/anonymous calls that would be generated if it was allowed.

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Anonymous Coward

Forbidden networks

If my memory of SIM cards serves correctly - your SIM card contains a list of Forbidden Networks that your phone will never be allowed to connect to. Usually all the networks in a country set this list up to be the list of all their competitor networks in the same country - but there is no technical reason why this has to be the case - I believe it is purely for business reasons.

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Coverage

Dead spots in coverage around Tunbridge Wells? That'll be NIMBYism preventing the networks from putting up masts. I mean, why would any network voluntarily loose a valuable customer who could be making or receiving calls on the train (and people who live in Tunbridge Wells and commute into London do tend to be nice valuable customers).

Poor coverage on a train? That'll be the effect of sitting inside a metal box and moving quickly - the train carriage makes a fairly good Faraday cage as it is (and Virgin trains with their metallised windows are even better at absorbing the weak mobile signal) but then to make life even harder for the network to handle, combine your mobile with a hundred or so others on the train and then start moving quickly so that the network has to handle a lot of simultaneous cell handovers.

Population vs geographic coverage? That'll be the need to earn some return on the huge sums invested in network infrastructure. And that return comes from customers paying for services; if there is only one man and his dog living / working in the several square miles covered by a cell, that's a lot of profit that the network needs to earn from the dog ('cos the man is presumably smart enough to switch to another network with lower prices...)

Intra-national roaming does already exist in the UK - there's a commercial agreement between Orange and Hutchison 3G to provide national roaming onto GSM for '3' customers. Didn't need regulatory or governmental intervention, its a commercial deal which replaced the previous deal that Hutch signed with O2. If there was a real commercial driver for this (ie a network would be able to win customers by improving the quality of its network) then it would have happened by now. A lot of effort went into trying to make infrastructure-sharing work because of the clear cost benefit of NOT doubling up on those expensive cell sites.

Thumbs down, because things never work well that are forced on an industry by the grandstanding of otherwise faceless backbenchers who can't resist a bit of grandstanding.

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@AC

Telstra only claims 98% coverage because about 98% of the population resides in only a handful of locations. Australian population density is very urban. It's also a lie as there are plenty of black-spots in these areas. But you're right in that they charge like nothing I've ever witnessed.

Still, cant beat fending off foreign competition to protect the Government owned (in part) incumbent can you?

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But then again ......

... if the actual network itself were divorced from the operator Railtrack stylee we could have a physical infrastructure that covered 100% of the UK. The traditional operators (O2 etc) would then sell the airtime and handsets, but the Network operator would only be responsible for ensuring coverage and availability. We did it with the rails, we did a fair bit of it with the old BT, so we certainly could do it to the public's benefit with the mobile operators. The competition could then be between what services each operator supplies rather than network coverage which we pretty much all agree can suck at often.

Where's the Two Thumbs icon?

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Coat

NIMBYs

I believe Mr Clark's dead spots may well well originate in the obscure fact that oddest of creatures, the NIMBY, was in fact created by a mad professor in Tunbridge Wells who was unhappy that too few of his neighbours wrote "Disgusted of" letters to the Times any longer. Before settling on the correct specs, a few of his early (and overly zealous in their apoplectic fuming) experimental versions escaped into the wild, where they bred prodigiously. The entire town is now a hotbed of suspicion of anything 'newfangled' that wasn't common in Victorian England, and the lynching of strangers in front of the Town Hall is a well-loved local tradition.

Interestingly, the town was described as "a graveyard with lights" by a well known 1980s soap actor, incarcerated there for the duration of an Xmas pantomime run.

Mines the well tailored number with the buttons at the back...

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Royal Tunbridge Wells

To give it it's proper title :-)

And it can't be that bad - we (for I am a RTWer by childhood) did host the world premiere of "Home and Away - The Musical".

It was a more innocent time...

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Unhappy

Rip-off charges

The EU cap doesn't apply in-country, so operators would be free to charge whatever extortionate rates they felt like - as they already do for international calls.

Example: I've a UK SIM and a German SIM. If I'm in Germany and need to call the UK it's actually cheaper to do it with the roaming UK SIM, as that's price-capped to 30p/min or whatever, whereas the German operator charges nearly EUR2/min for overseas calls. That's FIVE times as expensive.

It's the same in reverse in the UK - I'm better off calling Germany using a German SIM. Bizarre...

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Alien

Who really cares?

Personally, I'd rather some MP introduced a Bill to prevent any network coverage in places like concert halls, cinemas, restaurants, buses, and so on. Or for an enterprising company to develop a paint that blocks the signals. There's nothing worse than having a Sharon or Tracy sit beside you on public transport or in a cinema and be forced to listen to her weeks sexual achievements with Darren and what she bought at Top Shop on Saturday.

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Black Helicopters

Don't rely on it.

"You can also make emergency calls on any network already, regardless of subscription, so not a valid argument either"

Don't rely on it!

In the UK it is not possible to call emergency services unless you have a working SIM and coverage on your own network, there is no home-country roaming not even for emergency calls. So if you are for example a T-Mobile customer and there is no T-Mobile coverage, but there is Orange and O2 coverage you will still not be able to made emergency calls.

The GSM spec allows it, however it's not used in the UK.

Your mobile phone might say SOS Calls Only or Emergency Calls Only - however that is a default message on some phone when not in signal because they probably think most people will be in a country that allows emergency calls to be made on other networks when they don't have coverage on their own.

Sadly many people think they can make such calls - please ensure you let as many people know it is not the case as you wouldn't want someone to rely on it and then come unstuck.

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