back to article Ofcom to networks: Want this delicious 5G spectrum? You'll have to improve 4G coverage

Ofcom has today proposed placing new coverage obligations on mobile operators for 4G services as part of their winning 5G spectrum bids. All four operators have met the obligation to reach 90 per cent of the country's landmass by the end of 2017. But the UK regulator said: "While the previous obligations have resulted in …

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90% of the landmass

All four operators have met the obligation to reach 90 per cent of the country's landmass by the end of 2017.

Since there's still plenty of mobile blackspots to be found on many truck roads and much of the rail network even across the Midlands and South East, I can only assume that the MNOs found all the cheap and easy to serve areas of the country and hit those hard. Sadly those were sparsely inhabited, but the MNOs were just doing what Ofcom asked.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 90% of the landmass

This will proportionally target areas of flat topology to boost the statistical data. There is no distribution rule here, to say additional coverage should be distributed equally across the UK.

Weasels Ofcom are making up rules as they go along, without any due diligence to how they will be exploited by providers.

We have 5 mobile phone shops in our small town but fuck all coverage just outside it, these companies are quite happy selling snake oil, due to the undulating topology.

It's a typical headline grabbing statement by narcissistic Ofcom, that does nothing in terms of "common sense" regarding poor mobile coverage in outlying difficult to cover, areas.

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Black Helicopters

Ofcom, Comreg and other greedy regulators.

They SHOULD have set 100% coverage and minimum speeds for 3G. They legally could.

They SHOULD have set 100% coverage and minimum speeds for 4G. They legally could.

Why didn't they? Because they are not much interested in real regulation, spectrum efficiency, spectrum protection or the Consumer. Despite the reasons behind the creation of "Independent" regulators the main goal is same as 19th C & 20th C. Government control, esp. raising of revenue and also a level playing field between rich competitors as they don't want to fight court cases.

Neither Ofcom or Comreg properly actually measure indoor & outdoor coverage and speeds. Mostly they rely on the Operators own reporting! So coverage and speeds, especially at busy times are far worse than official figures.

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Re: Ofcom, Comreg and other greedy regulators.

Because places in, say, areas of special scientific interest, would be destroyed trying to cable in one remote farmer.

100% is ridiculous. To be honest, this is just reasonable. "More than before, and try to catch people who have nothing at the moment" is a reasonable, achieveable requirement that doesn't mean rural planning officers are forced to allow a dirty great mast in the middle of an otherwise empty landscape just to cover Farmer John who won't pay for a broadband line and a pico-cell.

Were I in charge, my requirement would mirror this announcement (maybe a little more) but would just define the terms so strictly that you couldn't "cheat" by covering easy dead spots instead of the harder ones. I'd have a points system - so that you'd basically find it more advantageous to cable in some of the current dead-zone places but if you can't, you can make it up by covering MORE of the rural areas that have virtually nothing.

Businesses will always take the cheapest way out of what is basically a condition on doing business. Of course they will. Expect it and plan for it so that the cheapest way out achieves the most you can.

But expecting 100% coverage is a nonsense. There isn't 100% landline coverage or postal coverage let alone mobile coverage.

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Pirate

Auction or Beauty Contest, not Beauty Auction

You can either try and raise value from an auction, or you can raise value by pitching operators against each other to create the most value with their deployments, but you cannot have both.

The 3G spectrum cost far more than the equipment used to operate it, and their running costs, and the replacement hardware and their running costs. Giving out that spectrum with the obligation - and the right - to deploy 'everywhere' would have cost the MNOs less and delivered more value - not to say avoided the spectrum write-downs that resulted in lost corporation tax.

But the rights need to exist. In the 18th century it was fighting mills , in the 19th century it was fighting the building of railways, in the 20th century fighting the building of roads, and in the 21st century it is Wind Turbines and mobile cabins and poles that attract objections.

Central Government guidelines need to be enforceable on local authorities - and quickly - it you want utopia.

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Re: Ofcom, Comreg and other greedy regulators.

just to cover Farmer John who won't pay for a broadband line and a pico-cell.

Where is Farmer John supposed to buy a pico-cell? Nobody sells any that you can legally connect to a UK network any more. Vodafone claim to but refuse unless you're a business account with a minimum of 20 numbers. Three don't. BT/EE and O2 just say "use our app" which is a) crap and b) only works inside your wifi zone, if at all, and very badly even then.

Everyone understands that rural coverage is hard - although apparently not a problem in rural India or Africa where mobile payments are enormous - but let's not blame the people who live there for that.

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Re: Ofcom, Comreg and other greedy regulators.

But the pico cell still requires decent backhaul. I seem to remember seeing a network offering for such a cell, but discounted it on reading the details as phones had to be pre-registered to be able to make use of it.

Basically, thanks to the daftness of the government's structuring of the BDUK project; solutions other than a BT cable in the ground, have remained niche, difficult to deploy and expensive.

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WTF?

About 8 miles north of the M25 I do not consider that I am out in the boon docks, however EE coverage inside the house varies between nothing and crap, though texts do usually manage to struggle through. Frankly what hope has the rest of the country, carrier pigeons?

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"Frankly what hope has the rest of the country, carrier pigeons?"

Well, yeah, actually. I thought that went without saying.

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And what about the other networks, are they just as. As it is it just EE?

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Anonymous Coward

EE? No need to say any more

EE is easily the worse mobile network in my area (45miles from Westminster). There are dozens of blackspots even on major roads and as for using the phone on the train... ? Don't be silly. Even where the main line is on an embankment EE is crap. Even '3' is better and that is saying something.

At home, EE gives 4G if I stand up on the Toilet seat. Everywhere else? 3G on a good day and often nothing. I was persuaded to move from Three and regretted every moment until I managed to switch back.

Yet, the nearest EE and Three masts are next door to each other...

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Re: EE? No need to say any more

Yet, the nearest EE and Three masts are next door to each other...

But not operating on the same frequency. Perhaps not even on the same frequency band. Propagation depends upon frequency. Interference effects depend upon frequency.

Whether I get 3G or 4G from Three depends on whether or not it's raining and other (unknown) factors. Such is life in this modern world.

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Re: EE? No need to say any more

Actually there is every need to say more if the much - vaunted EE - based ESN is to have any hope of working.

At the moment things are not looking particularly good. I wonder how long Motorola will be able to keep things going with TETRA / Airwave, because it is beginning to look as though "quite some time" is going to be necessary.

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Anonymous Coward

Same 90 per cent?

i.e. the easy stuff, or actually including the difficult bits?

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Too right, here here

It's a silly idea that there should be separate nationwide communications backbones. the hotchpotch of the USA telecommunications system is a nightmare and in Australia where they had the opportunity to fix things the fools have condemned people to a hell they won't easily come back from {spit}.

So Britain unify your backbones, get some grit and role out a national communications backbone, take the opportunity to do the 5G thing across the whole country, then let services providers afterwards sell access to those who need it .

You'll be a lot better for it.

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Re: Too right, here here

you mean like the success that Railtrack has been, renting access to the railway lines?

or the success that attempting to open BT's infra by forcing BT to rent access using Openreach?

hmmm.

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Re: Too right, here here

>So Britain unify your backbones, get some grit and role out a national communications backbone

Well currently we effectively have two national mobile network backbones, both privately owned. [Aside: I'm ignoring the national Tetra backbone that is due to be switched off.]

I suspect they work because of vested interests of the network operators and minimal interference from Ofcom...

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A coverage obligation? What a good Idea! I wonder why no-one suggested that before.

Oh, they did, four years ago:

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/11/07/ofcom_omits_coverage_obligation_in_mod_spectrum_sale/

And 90%? - pants on fire - the operators should have to publish maps of their 10%.

Simon

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