back to article MPs petition for legally binding target of 95% 4G coverage across UK

A group of cross-party MPs have urged digital secretary Matt Hancock to whack a legal obligation on the UK's four mobile operators to provide 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK's landmass by 2022. Some 56 MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services signed the letter urging Hancock to improve the state of …

Anonymous Coward

The one issues could be...

...they all provide to the same 95%, due to mast sharing.

Ideally it would be better if they could cover 100% between them.

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Re: The one issues could be...

Would it make sense for an independent mast provider to provide coverage in those 'hard to reach' areas and then charge the other networks for access?

Or am I missing something/ being thick?

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Re: The one issues could be...

You don't drive on a different set of roads according to whether you have a Ford or a Honda. So why the different set of masts?

The whole competition regulation needs to be completely overhauled, so we can get a signal wherever one is available. Just as we do when travelling abroad and connecting to our provider's local partners.

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Re: The one issues could be...

Not really. Because that's what happens...

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Anonymous Coward

Every 4G mast should have its technical capabilities published by Ofcom.

As always, a minimum specification for microwave/fibre backhaul is not mentioned regarding a 95% mobile land mass coverage of 4G.

The UK needs a lot more (dark) fibre laid in a lot more remote rural locations if you're going to achieve any sort of practical data throughput for multiple concurrent users using 4G masts.

Ofcom also need to regulate '4G' regarding the minimum actual throughput achievable per device and state the number of concurrent devices each 4G mast can handle/publishing technical details of each mast's backhaul, so they meet a practical standard.

There is currently nothing to prevent operators upgrading software/hardware to a '4G signal' between the device and the mast (which is what 4G technically is, the transmission protocol between device and mast), giving the appearance of 4G, while making no additional changes to the microwave/fibre backhaul capacity of the mast.

i.e. Press releases/headlines state an operator has upgraded its masts to '4G', but the practical side is the mast backhaul is still only capable of handling 2G/3G and from a very limited number of devices concurrently.

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But Shirley...

...EE must have achieved that level of coverage as an integral part of its commitment to provide the new ESN.

</sarcasm>

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Re: But Shirley...

They'll just use their devices in relay mode... what do you mean 4G doesn't support relay mode?

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Re: But Shirley...

They'll just use their devices in relay mode

By "their devices" I assume that you mean "users", in which case, er, they won't. Firstly handportable terminals cannot sensibly be made to act as repeaters, secondly... even if they could there would need to be one strategically located to act as a repeater for others*; unlikely... and thirdly, the last I heard Samsung hadn't even made a "vehicle" set work. Yes, vehicle sets can be made to act as repeaters, subject to their getting sufficient signal from the nearest base station, but how well that would fit the spec for 4G I don't know.

* In addition, portable to portable "direct" (DMO in TETRA - speak) gives rather disappointing ranges.

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Re: But Shirley...

...handportable terminals cannot sensibly be made to act as repeaters... the last I heard Samsung hadn't even made a "vehicle" set work... portable to portable "direct" (DMO in TETRA - speak) gives rather disappointing ranges

Remind me again, what was the problem with TETRA and why are we replacing it? ISTR that the main issues were around data capacity and the need for linear RF amplifiers, but surely the replacement system - however good its data capacity - has to get the basics (those things you mentioned) right first?

M.

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Re: But Shirley...

@ Martin an gof: I think it is/was data capacity; you are right about the need for linear power amplifiers but I suspect that that is not really a major issue.

Of course one thing that TETRA was not is cheap, and the EE ESN supposedly comes in at a lot less that whatever TETRA is costing. Ha! - we will see. How on earth any bidder for the contract could put a price on things that had yet to be developed escapes me completely.

And of course there will be the problem that any data - hungry system tends to guzzle battery capacity, especially if it is having to transmit it.

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Re: But Shirley...

How on earth any bidder for the contract could put a price on things that had yet to be developed escapes me completely.

You don't think for one nanosecond that the price as bid is anywhere near the price that will be paid?

People who bid for any long term services contract know to price at a loss, because there's either undefined elements that will certainly be added, or changes to requirements. The real skill in tendering for such deals is simply to spot those opportunities in the original specification, and then have the mendacity to offer an absurdly low bid in order to squeeze out the handful of like-minded competitors.

It is pretty much the same business model as outsourcing and offshoring in IT, BPO, and any government services tender.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But Shirley...

Of course one thing that TETRA was not is cheap

One reason was the ridiculous level of redundancy which was contractually imposed on the network operator by the customers.

There is no way that EE will achieve anything like that level of resilience.

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Given the goverment's expressed intention to migrate all the emergency services communications to public 4G networks, one would hope for at least 95% coverage, and preferably more. But they probably haven't thought that through...

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Anonymous Coward

I asked a couple of years ago

I got a nice letter back from the Digital MP saying "Thank you, we have thought of that, and we have plenty of coverage already."

Even in my garden, which Vodafone says will get 3G, we don't have a reliable signal (it seems that pressure and humidity have to be just right to get a signal). You can forget getting a signal in the house, unless you buy a femto-cell from them (pay to get their sh1t signal, no way!).

But my question is - am I included in the 90% coverage? Don't bother answering - of course they count me in!

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Imagine

how much simpler life would be if roaming between networks was allowed? Seems to work for other bulk suppliers - water, gas, electricity...

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Re: Imagine

That might be OK for voice calls, but is unacceptable for data - your handset won't move network until it's finished whatever it's doing, so if you ever roamed onto a 2G network, chances are you'd never leave it.

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Re: Imagine

how much simpler life would be if roaming between networks was allowed

Some time ago I came up with what I thought was a brilliant scheme both to increase coverage in blackspots that the phone companies don't seem bothered about covering, and to keep "uneconomical" phone boxes alive in remote locations. No, it won't handle (much) data, but it would have made a decent fist of getting voice coverage increased, which at the time was the major problem; some poor soul broken down half way up the Llanberis pass in the middle of the night with no mobile signal, a disconnected phonebox just up the road, and a two mile trek back to civilisation.

Upgrade phoneboxes to ISDN (128kbps over lots of distance) and install small 2G cells, which I'm sure would run just fine on the power already in the box for the lighting. Allow all phones to roam onto these small cells and charge a termination fee as is currently done anyway. 128kbps is good for quite a lot of 2G phone calls (perhaps nine or ten "full rate" duplex conversations at once - remember ISDN is 128kbps in each direction). Use profit to keep the phone box alive, even if its actual takings are low.

Unfortunately, the ideal time for that scheme was some time in the mid to late 1990s...

M.

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Re: Imagine

how much simpler life would be if roaming between networks was allowed? Seems to work for other bulk suppliers - water, gas, electricity...

Depends on how you define "roam between networks" for water, gas, and electricity. In general, you don't migrate between distributors ("grids") of electricity/water/gas, but between *suppliers*. That is, your electricity still arrives via the National Grid, but you can pay different generating companies as you "migrate" or "roam" between them.

Compare this to the (mobile) phone system - you have one set of distribution hardware (masts and their backhauls) PER supplier (Voda, EE, etc.)(1) so the concept of roaming actually applies, even if it isn't currently enabled, but is more or less the opposite of migrating energy suppliers.

(1) Sorry, I'm more familiar with my local (French) suppliers: Orange(2), Free, SFR, Bouygues, etc.

(2) Before you say it, Orange bloody well is French, now. It is the name of the organisation that was formerly France Telecom.

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Anonymous Coward

Is that 95% of the country, or 95% of the population at their home locations?

Its an important distinction. One that the mobile companies have be keen to keep to the small print since they started boasting about coverage,

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Big Brother

Persons in the remaining 5% either way will be placed on a watchlist and subjected to enhanced marketing techniques.

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Anonymous Coward

There is very big clue in the article

"95 per cent of the UK's landmass by 2022."

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Re: "95 per cent of the UK's landmass by 2022."

So this is the agenda then: lop off big swathes of the UK landmass before 2022.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "95 per cent of the UK's landmass by 2022."

They're obviously hoping to lose Scotland.

(Scotland is hoping to lose England if they carry on with Brexit).

And Wales...Rural Wales was never capable of transmitting 4G further than the next hill and has always been treated as the runt of the litter regards investment (rightly or wrongly).

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Anonymous Coward

I wish the MPs would do something more useful like lobbying for the UK to catch up on the rest of the world with fibre, taking a better grip on BT's monopolistic tactics, or eradicating the window tax on fibre. Or preferably all three....

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Anonymous Coward

"within the M25, north London and get NO bars on my mobile indoors - Vodafone."

Wow. That's saying something !

As much of a ripoff Vodafone are with their pricing and god-awful "customer service", at least the one thing you can normally be almost guaranteed on Vodafone is a signal, which is more than can be said for their competitors (e.g. 3 where you can't even get a signal in some parts of the most central parts of Central London e.g. parts of the WC postcode areas ).

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Change your phone provider.

And nobody has ever said you'll get signal INDOORS. That's entirely dependent on your house's construction.

Worst case, they'll make you plug in a picocell, which you can also get from Vodafone etc.

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Anonymous Coward

HMP Pentonville is in North London, that has a fantastic Vodafone signal, walls/bars n' all.

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2G, but no data,....

@AC Indeed, just few miles out of the city, on a favourite dog walking route, I can make voice calls, but I can't get any data. OpenSignal rates the location as a 'weak' signal for Vodafone.

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Anonymous Coward

"and get NO bars on my mobile indoors - Vodafone."

As pointed out you have to look at your building first.

Modern building insulation often has foil backing that that interferes. Older buildings often have thicker / denser walls.There can also be issues with some types of glass that get fitted.

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Hmm

Tim did better coverage of this issue-

http://www.continentaltelegraph.com/tech-2/mps-more-than-a-day-late-pound-short-on-4g-spectrum-coverage/

It would seem it is a little late to be making these demands. I recently got a survey request from the reg. If you really want to know how to improve you can bring back the good writers for your site. Bring back Tim Worstall and Lewis Page.

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Anonymous Coward

Tim Worstall seems to struggle to know the difference between o2 and Ofcom.

"While in the build-up to the auction Three had made the most noise about the 2.3GHz spectrum, Ofcom won all 40Mhz of the ready-to-use 4G spectrum for £318m."

Tim Worstall seems to struggle to know the difference between o2 and Ofcom. {facepalm}

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Re: Hmm

My comment on the Reg's survey was:

Stop focusing on all the business junk, and start focusing on tech news articles and discussions.

Far too much of that survey was written in management-ese, and I can't imagine anyone comes here for some B2B junk.

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Re: Tim Worstall seems to struggle to know the difference between o2 and Ofcom.

@AC

Thats not Tim. That is quoted from https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/3029641/o2-and-vodafone-win-big-in-ofcoms-4g-and-5g-spectrum-auction

I didnt spot that on my first read but that is pretty funny.

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Re: Tim Worstall seems to struggle to know the difference between o2 and Ofcom.

"That is quoted from https://www.theinquirer.net"

Quite so and isn't there a connection to El Reg too? ELR being a split off an upgrade or something?

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Re: Hmm

I heartily support this idea. Bring back TW!

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8% is roughly the size of Wales, coincidence?

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Anonymous Coward

"8% is roughly the size of Wales"

Rhod Gilbert sums it up nicely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUp4XMLeyoE

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Personally I think the government / ofcom should prohibit deployment of 5G until certain minimum levels of 4G service have been achieved. Otherwise we will just see what we have with previous generations where localised deployment higher speeds is preferred to coverage

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It's much more expensive (by orders of magnitude) to capable up a single person in a rural area than upgrade thousands of people in an urban area.

This isn't ever likely to change, even if you put 4G everywhere today, you'd need to do the same for 5G, 6G, etc. the same as broadband etc. There were times when you couldn't even dial-up from rural locations, that hasn't changed at all... only the tech you desire access to.

There comes a point - and that point is about the 95% mark - where you could upgrade an entire city cheaper than connect a single street. On a cost/benefit analysis, it's just not worth anyone's time.

Question: How long do you think it would take for a lone farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, paying £25 a month, to pay off the INSTALLATION costs alone of a 1km leased line to provide them with 4G / broadband. And 1km is really quite optimistic and, in some places, literally a radius within which there may only be that one building serve.

Hint: a 500m leased line fibre run, using existing ducting, road infrastructure and nearby connections, to an inner-city school within the M25 cost me approximately £13,000 not including the £600 a month ongoing fee for 100Mbps. And we dug half the route for them as it went through our land, to reduce costs.

What do you get for that install price? A fibre presenting itself and a box with an SFP module.

It would take 43 years to pay off that installation cost alone, if you were paying NOTHING else for the actual connection it utilises.

What ISP is going to - without literally having the government PAY THEM to do it - run that cable and then hope that the family will pay them £25 a month for the next 50 years without fail, not to mention another £25 AT LEAST to provide service / make profit.

And that's an EASY scenario. Once you get into land ownership / wayleave / physical obstacles / other utilities / longer distances / etc. it quickly becomes inviable to even put the cable in.

This stuff needs an independent body (someone like OpenReach) to be REQUIRED to provide the infrastructure on demand, funded by all the ISPs being required to use them and/or government subsidising the expensive connections. All that means is... sure... you can have 4G out in the sticks. By the way, we just added £5 a month to everyone's bill in the country to pay for it.

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Did you mean bumpkins (subtitle)? Bumkins are probably something different and -this being the internet- I'm not going to look it up.

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Why does everyone hate the remaining 5%?

5% of leg amputees get the wrong leg hacked off, so it's not significant. But the good news is the other leg is getting better.

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Bars

Where to go to get the best signal:-

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/articles/uk-town-pubs-per-square-mile/

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