back to article David Cameron wants mobe network roaming INSIDE the UK

Silly Season has started early. The Times reports that the Prime Minister is backing a plan to force operators to UK customers to roam between networks in the UK. This means that network subscribers who lose their signal while in the boondocks could piggyback onto the signal of another network. Supposing there is one. The …

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  1. TheOtherHobbes

    You mean like a National Grid for mobiles? One that would make network black spots much less common?

    Well, clearly that's the dumbest idea ever. The cellcos should be encouraged to nurture their blackspots, and continue providing the pisspoor service they're famous for.

    Anything else just isn't competitive.

  2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Mandatory roaming would reward operators who invested the least in their own rural networks, and increase intra-company haggling.

    Not necessarily. It's called "National Roaming" and works in France, where the regulator has designated certain sparsely-populated rural areas as "zones blanches". The operators effectively agreed to share these areas out among themselves, rather than all incurring the expense of installing competing networks. The cell ID shows up as "F-CONTACT" instead of "F-SFR" or "F-Orange", etc. Outside the zone blanches cross-operating roaming does not apply.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      It was also an essential part of O2's buildout as the fourth network in Germany. It was switched off by O2 presumably because it cost more to keep paying for it (costs no extra to the customer) than build out where it was economically viable and leave white space where not. Establishing the charges - the termination fees could be a model - wouldn't be impossible and if set by Ofcom wouldn't need extra haggling, though you can imagine Ofcom setting floor prices and some operators negotiating volume deals.

      White space remains a problem for all operators, which is why licences never stipulate 100 % coverage. In such areas the French solution is reasonable for voice services because these scale predictably: phones need only 2 voice channels at any one time. Data is more of a challenge so you can expect that to be permanently throttled.

    2. Richard Jones 1
      Happy

      "zones blanches"

      What a damned good idea and one idea that the EU might like to mandate to replace some of their other real dross ideas.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "zones blanches"

        I have to say it works extremely well and there also appears to be some cooperation between the French and Spanish operators, at least near the border because I have never been charged extra for the times my phone has latched onto a Spanish operator when I have been up in the Pyrenees overlooking Spain.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Depending on the pricing, it could also benefit the operators who've invested in better coverage. If they got 90% of the value from a roaming call, say, then having other operators' customers using these low-utilisation parts of their network would actually reward them for the investment they've made.

    4. Tom 38 Silver badge

      It sounds good, but there is nothing to force operators to provide an adequate service in the zone that they have been allocated.

      Could we not just make it more/very expensive for the network to be carried on competitors network where they do not have capacity? If they pass the cost on to the consumer instead of investing in more POP to reduce future costs, then they become more expensive and less competitive than their rivals that do have capacity.

      This way, the whole thing becomes a market driven by consumer demand. If you don't provide an adequate network, you will have to raise prices, which will then mean you lose customers eventually to the networks that do provide an adequate service and do not have to raise prices.

  3. Mark Randall

    Not so silly....

    I'm not seeing the problem here.

    The telcos are awash with cash, and your implication is that if this scheme were to be introduced, that they would suddenly all cut their already non-existent plans to carpet bomb the countryside with masts.

    I suspect the entire reason they have not built them there in the first place is that it is not profitable to do so.

    Let people piggyback on each other, and put in the financial incentives to force investment in their own networks. That way the consumer is not being kicked in the nuts because they don't have £75 a month to spend on buying 3 SIM cards.

    1. Richard Jones 1
      Unhappy

      Re: Not so silly....

      I understood that intra UK roaming was not previously supported, certainly not at the start to 'encourage' operators to built out to the maximum. Well clearly that has worked splendidly well as we now have no service deficient spots. Just like we have no towns or villages without banking facilities - oh wait a minute...

      I used to carry at least two sim cards in two phones, though my back up sim will probably go off net soon as it is not used as I no longer travel into the far off waste lands 2 miles out of town.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not so silly....

        " used to carry at least two sim cards in two phones,"

        In our area, in a ten mile stretch, you can get Vodafone in one village, but not O2 or Orange/T-Mobile, but leave the village and turn a corner and the Voda coverage goes from 5 bars to zero, while Orange/T-Mobile bounce to 5 bars. Go up a hill, and O2 reception starts, while Orange fades. Travel a little and Voda starts again. I for one welcome the arrival of our mast-agnostic overlords.

  4. wolfetone Silver badge
    Devil

    Cameron will surely lose the vote of the serial cheaters, who use the fact they can't get signal as an excuse for not picking the phone up to their wife/husband while banging away on their latest bit of fluff.

    Cameron is truly out of touch with the UK public.

  5. Khaptain Silver badge

    Nightmare

    Why do the operators have physically seperate networks anyway. Why don't they just pool their resources and have one excellent system rather than a multitude of expensive to maintain individual systems.

    1. Timmay

      Re: Nightmare

      Hmm, that's true. Kind of like how silly it would be to start running many different postal systems across the nation, duplicating infrastructure, feet on the ground covering the same areas, backhauls, etc, we'd never start doing tha...oh

    2. Ashton Black

      Re: Nightmare

      Two arguments against a unified network:

      The biggest mobile firms, that have already invested billions, don't want competition using their kit and give up market share.

      If we had a unified national mobile network, then we'd get the same ahem…"alleged" collusion and price gouging we see in the privatised energy, rail and water networks.

    3. The Man Himself Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Nightmare

      This has already happened - O2 and Vodafone formed Cornerstone to give them a single network

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "O2 and Vodafone formed Cornerstone "

        See also: Arqiva?

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Nightmare

      What are the incentives for improvements (or even maintaining the current standard) if they pool the services?

      Certainly, during build out having the ability to plan your own network is a competitive advantage. Long-term centralised network ownership that is independent of the operators is the most likely outcome. Indeed this has already been happening for years as equipment get into the business of supplying the network rather than just the kit. You still need to balance the demands by the networks of lower costs with those of capacity and coverage. The model might be the rail network… the experience of which varies from country to country.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nightmare

      Because better coverage (or the perception of it) is a differentiator.

      The other risk is that you could end up with less redundancy and should there be a problem with one mast everyone in that area could lose coverage whereas now O2 may have an issue but probably does not affect Vodafone customers.

      Also I believe many of the companies already share the masts already.

    6. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Nightmare

      Because in theory, they could identify an area that's likely to see an increase in demand and then build a mast nearby to give themselves a competitive edge (everyone else's masts being a bit further away). As well as capturing punters, they can rent some of that mast space to the other networks for a suitable price.

      In reality, if that happens it's rare. At the moment the main focus seems to be on rolling out 4G in heavily populated areas rather than trying to eliminate blackspots (though as the former is potentially more profitable, you can't really blame them).

      With tongue carefully in cheek, I'd also point out that having multiple companies, any one of which could be the owner of that brand new mast, probably (briefly) makes the network's life easier, as those wishing to complain of having headaches/illness from the radiation emitted by the (occasionally, not even turned on yet) mast will have to narrow down the owner before sending their emails.

    7. Bunbury

      Re: Nightmare

      Terrible idea. I think it's the same reason that Tesco, Sainsbury, Aldi, Waitrose et al have different premises. They are different companies.

      You could have a national grid style model for mobiles in principle, but that would require significant change from where we are now, and a lot of money given you'd be effectively nationalising some profitable companies. The political climate is also against it; most politicians now taking the view that competition provides a better result than central control. i.e. that the efficiencies of running it centrally will be undermined by the stifling blanket of monopoly.

      Even if you could create such a beast who would own it? If the state, welcome to meddling. If a company, welcome to profits for the owners and poor service. And it would become one of those "too big to fail" problems where public cash gets mopped up by the bucketload if the company gets in trouble.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Nightmare

        Is it also the reason those supermarkets all have their own road networks to deliver to their stores ?

        What's that ? They don't ?

    8. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Nightmare

      Why let them operate at all? They could just be a state owned monopoly.

      Come to think of it this could solve the housing crisis, why allow anyone to own a house the state could own everything and allocate it as it sees fit.

      Hmmmm.. we don't need 600 or so MPs either, all we need is one bloke with an interesting moustache and maybe a hat to keep an eye on everything.

    9. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Nightmare

      I believe that in the early days the regulations said each operator had to run their own network. I believe it was to encourage service differentiation and competition. It's only recently that things like mast sharing (and then network sharing) has been allowed.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nightmare

      Because when the networks were being set up coverage was one of their major differentiators. One2One essentially tried cherry-picking major conurbations and transport routes, but eventually had to roll our national coverage to a similar level to the other three. Now that they all have similar coverage they have been consolidating their infrastructure, so there are only two organisations operating cell sites now, MBNL (3UK and EE) and Cornerstone (Vodafone and O2). MBNL is the more integrated of the two, but if Call Me Dave shows some perseverance and actually pushes on with his knee-jerk plan then he'll probably find that the effect is a lot less than he imagines in his simplistic little mind.

    11. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Nightmare

      I wish your downvoters had replied properly instead of just slapping you. I can imagine the benefits to the operators of sharing the infrastructure at the connection end-points; much like the gas/electricity companies don't have separate pipes and cables going to your house. Whether they like it or not, the telcos are just another group of utility companies.

  6. leon clarke

    Maybe this could work with the right regulations

    I think this is most likely to go nowhere and if it does happen, it'll be a disaster but...

    What if roaming was not only mandatory but the roamed-to network received hefty charges which the phone's network wasn't allowed to pass on to the customer. That would create a real incentive to increase coverage.

    Of course, it'd drive up costs (someone needs to pay for the new masts, and for the endless legal challenges to the idea), but could be worth it for decent coverage.

    In fact, this will go nowhere as it only really makes a difference in solid-blue constituencies. What is needed is an initiative that improves phone reception in marginal constituencies.

    1. Paw Bokenfohr

      Re: Maybe this could work with the right regulations

      I was thinking this too.

      But I don't think that you can realistically stop those charges getting passed on to the customer, and I don't think you actually need to either.

      Say it turns out that O2 actually has the best coverage overall, and 3 the worst, with Voda and EE somewhere in the middle.

      O2 will be getting more in revenue from this forced sharing, and will of course reap the profits and not bother to build new infrastructure because, hey, they're a mobile phone company and they're all a$$holes.

      3 will end up paying a lot more, to O2 and Voda / EE than they get from the reverse, and will be taking a hit. They will either (a) pass on the costs to their customers or (b) build new infrastructure in the places where they see the problem. If (a) (which seems more likely - all mobile phone companies are a$$holes remember) then their customers will leave them for O2, or Voda / EE. They will eventually go bust, or find a level, or realise they need to build more infrastructure to get a slice of that sweet forced roaming agreement deal that O2 have been basking in.

      Voda and EE may do nothing, being revenue neutral here, or they may see the opportunity. But when 3 starts investing and they start being the ones paying more out than they get, they may start seeing infrastructure as a benefit.

  7. James 51 Silver badge

    Depends on the fees that the network can charge the company whose customers are roaming on their network. If they are high enough, there the providing company can make a profit off providing the service or ther companies will want to invest.

  8. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Really?

    "It introduces an incentive to “do a Netflix” and lobby regulators rather than invest in their own capacity and backhaul"

    As if there is any incentive in these areas to invest in infrastructure anyway?

    Lets face it, roaming works perfectly well for those on overseas SIM cards who do get to roam between UK network operators and they manage to deal with that OK. Same with banks using each other's ATM for customer service, they somehow manage to work out a financial compensation arrangement that makes it worth while.

    I for one am 100% in favour of forcing this as the current status in sparsely populated areas is you are lucky to get any signal, let alone 3G, and it is not getting any better under the current business plans.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would there be a market for a non-network provider to build masts in these hard-to-reach areas, then charge network providers for use?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Maybe, but it's not just cost of infrastructure and low usage rates in rural areas. Planning consent is a nightmare and can take years per mast

      Everyone wants better coverage but no one wants an "ugly" phone mast spoiling their view. NIMBYism at its worst.

      1. NogginTheNog
        Joke

        NIMBYs

        Put the phone masts on top of the wind turbines!

  10. paulf Silver badge
    WTF?

    This was proposed many years ago

    Back in the TACS/GSM days cross roaming between the (then) two networks (Cellnet/Vodafone) was mandated in the operators' licenses. Then Mercury and Orange came into being and the requirement was quietly dropped as unnecessary because the additional competition was supposed to drive better coverage. I don't remember the actual timings of this but I do know it was there early on but eventually dropped.

    I think this is an excellent idea. The operator who has gone to the expense of building a Cell tower in a rural location is allowed to charge other operators who roam onto it - better coverage for all and more revenue for the operator who built the tower in the first place. Or all four operators pool resources to jointly own/operate towers in rural locations that don't justify separate towers with their own kit.

    And what do you mean “do a Netflix”. I call BS on this as it has been discussed at length in the Net Neutrality stories. Netflix pays to send their data into the "Internet" and the DSL subscriber pays to receive that data. So the transport of that data is being paid for at both ends of the wire and you still think they're free loading!? The same applies to services in this country like BBC iPlayer where the data is paid for at both ends but still the ISPs bitch about having to provide the service their customers have paid for. What total crap!!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Angel

    It can be a little frustrating to be stood in a village with no signal only to see that there is another network's mast within a hundred years of your current location.

    Usually happens when I'm on holiday. Damn thing never works when I'm on holiday. Forces me to speak with the wife. Can you imagine how frustrating that is for her!?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "another network's mast within a hundred years of your current location."

      Me has visions of Victorian edifices with lots of polished wood and brass inside. Steampunk phone masts and Farnsworth hand held videophones.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Assuming you mean 100 yds. There is a way round that of sorts, in that if you're fairly near a big town, you can get a PAYG sim from $provider_with_mast_in_area.

      1. Imsimil Berati-Lahn

        Manx telecom SIM for use as backup.

        Get a PAYG SIM from Manx telecom. Isle of Man based network, roams all of the mainland UK networks. Same cost* as a mainland PAYG calls and texts.

        *except folks phoning you on that number probably won't get to use their inclusive minutes, but you're only using it for outgoing calls anyway.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Manx telecom SIM for use as backup.

          " Get a PAYG SIM from Manx telecom. Isle of Man based network, roams all of the mainland UK networks. Same cost* as a mainland PAYG calls and texts."

          Sounded interesting, so I checked the website.

          Unfortunately, I don't quite see how their 25p per minute / 13p per text can be termed the 'same cost' as the 3p/2p I currently pay on PAYG with 'three'...

  12. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Noooo

    I know of people who travel to bumpkinshire especially for the lack of mobile coverage - they can have a holiday and then look their boss in the face and say 'no signal' with no guilt feelings about their inability to tell him where on his desk his fucking tea cup was.

    1. rhydian

      Re: Noooo

      Could you remind people that mobile phones do in fact have an "off" button...

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Noooo

        Parasitic bosses dont - if you turn your phone off you are slacking even on holiday - if there's no signal then your really free.

        1. rhydian

          Re: Noooo

          "Parasitic bosses dont - if you turn your phone off you are slacking even on holiday - if there's no signal then your really free."

          The problem I'm seeing is that you seem to have your work phone on holiday with you.

  13. Equitas

    Whatever the answer may be......

    it's manifestly clear that the big mobile operators should be compelled to be more honest with their claimed coverage. Claimed coverage of the home addresses of 90+% of the UK population is largely irrelevant:

    i) that figure, even for 2G, is a mere predictive map which is, more often than not, wildly optimistic

    ii) we don't need mobile coverage nearly as much at home as we need it when we're on the move and coverage even on main roads can be very patchy

    iii) there should be a legal requirement to specify coverage as a percentage of the landmass of the UK, and that coverage should be spot-checked across the landmass of the UK by an independent body.

    I see no reason why site sharing should not be enforced. The owner of the site could then make a controlled but mandatory charge to other operators for use of the site and the other operators be obliged as a condition of licence to pay the site-use charge. Much of the landmass of the UK is far behind the third world in mobile access terms. China and impoverished African countries do much better.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Whatever the answer may be......

      I know of at least one mobile operator with a detailed 3G/4G coverage map which claimed accuracy to within 100 metres. It does so across large expanses of rural England - including the danger/impact areas for MoD training estates. Given that the impact areas are permanently off limits to everyone, meaning nobody could have got in there to measure the signal, I conclude the operator's coverage map is a steaming pile of horse manure.

      1. dogged

        Re: Whatever the answer may be......

        I have lived very close to one of those areas and yes, they claim full 3G coverage even indoors.

        In fact, there is only coverage outdoors and that's from a different provider. Because EE that network are bullshitting.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Whatever the answer may be......

          I get full power 3G on three in doors both here (I'm using it now!) and at my previous address.

          Nothing indoors downstairs at my parent though.

          Just because you don't happen to get it, it doesn't mean no-one else can either

          1. Tom 38 Silver badge

            Re: Whatever the answer may be......

            Three currently only have bandwidth at 1800MHz, which is very very poor at penetrating buildings. This is universal to the Three network, all the other networks have bandwidth at 900MHz. Therefore if you are on Three, and have a good connection indoors, you are pretty close to the cell and so your experience is atypical.

            Other networks have bandwidth at 900MHz and 1800MHz, and so have better indoor penetration. Three have a deal with (I forget, T-mobile?) to trade some frequency to give them some slots at 900MHz to rectify this, which I think comes in to effect in October.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Whatever the answer may be......

      "Much of the landmass of the UK is far behind the third world in mobile access terms"

      I call that the leapfrog effect. Existing infrastructure will be used until it has to be replaced. Then it gets replaced with the latest tech. If there's no existing infrastructure, they start with the latest tech.

      So called 3rd world countries have, in some cases, much better mobile phone coverage because they installed modern kit from the start as their first level of coverage. There was little to no landline coverage and no analogue mobile phone system to compete with and/or replace. Will they be first to full 4G (or 5G/6G) coverage or will they be leapfrogged by other "early adopters" moving past them?

  14. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Tsk, tsk

    The comparison with Netflix is invalid: Netflix is not a network. A better comparison would be local loop unbundling which has been shown to work (improve coverage, competition and investment) in some countries reasonably well. It doesn't solve problems with white space but there are other approaches, usually based on some kind of public service model (see the French one above) for that. Scandinavia also has examples of how to solve the problem.

  15. ChrisPW

    Netflix

    The netflix comparison is stupid and also demonstrates you don't understand the netflix situation.

    Netflix: ISP customers have already paid for the bandwidth the ISPs are choosing not to provide.

    Mobile roaming: mobile networks are not heavily built out into remote areas, the company is unable to provide service there at the moment (may be due to small customer numbers, planning issues with putting up towers, etc), the customer's handset should roam onto another network and their mobile company should pay a small usage fee to the operator who takes the load. This already happens in effect (just transparently) with some of the historical network sharing agreements.

  16. Handlewithcare

    Great Idea

    And the Network Operator supplying the signal can charge the Operator of the Customer a premium to recover the cost of servicing that area. If customers carriers are being hit with big bills from the supplying Carrier then it just creates a bigger incentive for the customers carrier to go build out some infrastructure in that area = better coverage = ? profit (or less loss, all the same). win win!

  17. DaLo

    Doesn't seem so daft?

    Operators already mast share (often with a head leaser of one of the operators who then sub leases to the other operators), they also have MVNOs and they allow roaming from other networks on their own network from foreign customers.

    There would be a cross network charge which with an equal network and an equal number of subscribers would be cost neutral. However if one operator spends more on building their infrastructure they reap more in cross network charges. Similarly the operator who has the biggest customer base with the smallest infrastructure has to pay out the most.

    As a working analogy - ATM/Cashpoint machines. These are installed by a certain entity and then they get a fee for each transaction made by a customer of another institution. Seems to work pretty well, you don't need 15 cashpoints in every village and as a customer you can use any for free (apart from private - chargeable - ones of course). The original installer has the cost of installation and ongoing running costs but they make their money back on their own customers not needing to speak to a human and third party charges.

  18. Mugs

    Seems a reasonable idea provided it's a quid pro quo - operators get rural roaming (saving them cash) provided they fill the blackspots (costing them cash).

    The government needs to add universal provision as a condition of mobile and broadband.

  19. Gordan

    Interlan roaming is a GOOD idea

    "Mandatory roaming would reward operators who invested the least in their own rural networks, and increase intra-company haggling."

    This is patently not true. Operators will charge each other. Yes, there will be haggling, but ultimately, a small operator that wants increased coverage will end up paying a larger part of their subscription fees to other operators that carry their calls. If an operator can accurately work out what their infrastructure cost is per call minute (which they most certainly do), then they can charge a few % more to the operators that are roaming calls to their network.

    It means there is still incentive to have your own network with good coverage, and virtual operators, although they have lower costs, will also end up with even lower profits. This is how "cloud" provision works. You get between 1/3 and 1/2 of bare metal performance due to overheads, but you can spin virtual infrastructure up and down easily. The total amount you pay over medium term is considerably more than having your own hardware would have cost you, but there's no capex, only opex. It's a tradeoff, and if anything roaming would increase competition by introducing more virtual operators (which already exist, e.g. GifGaf or Virgin Mobile).

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems daft to have all this bidding for licences.Just have a national network built up of all existing cells. Then have mobe operators just provide the service on this network.

    Seems to work for TV, so why not comms?

  21. rhydian

    It's all a matter of spectrum...

    The big benefit of national roaming would be that those on EE/3 could take advantage of Voda/O2's lower frequency spectrum, which carries better over distance (in my experience).

  22. Robert E A Harvey

    Landlines

    Really? Is our PM incapable of using landlines? Don't the secret service all around him have TETRA handsets?

    1. Bunbury

      Re: Landlines

      Or, for that matter, they could make calls from a telephone box.

      1. rhydian

        Re: Landlines

        Have you seen one recently? Most of the really rural ones are long gone.

  23. Steve Graham

    I'm an O2 customer, and at home I get marginal signal on 2G (when I leave my phone at a specific spot in the kitchen).

    But that's the best coverage of all the operators. People who visit usually have no phone connection at all.

    I'm certain that the other network operators are NOT EVER going to build new infrastructure around here. There's not enough population to make it economically viable -- the O2 coverage is probably just a fluke. However, if O2 were getting revenue from roaming, they just might see it being worth their while to upgrade.

    So, basically, it seems to me that the argument that national roaming would discourage investment is the exact reverse of the likely outcome.

  24. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Solved this last millennium

    Get a channel islands SIM.

  25. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Missing the point

    All the complex arguments about coverage and revenue are missing the point. I as a consumer should have the anytime free choice to which network I would like to give my business. If I knew that Starbucks were doing half-price coffee today then that's where I would go even though I normally prefer Costa. Why not the same when I turn on my phone.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Missing the point

      And how exactly do you expect to be billed for this? It would be possible if you were prepared to pay different prices for each call you made depending on the network. And your SIM is necessarily tied to one network for some modicum of security, you're still going to have some kind of base charge (minimum annual spend).

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Town and country

    The Countryside:

    - Fresh air

    - Peace and quiet

    - Lovely views

    - Crap public transport

    - No phone signal

    - Crap broadband

    Urban:

    - Noisier

    - More pollution

    - Better shopping

    - Good(ish) transport links

    - Better mobile and broadband coverage

    You pays your money, you takes your choice.

  27. 1Rafayal

    didnt we used to have this already? and wasnt it called roaming at home?

  28. Tromos

    Name 'em and shame 'em

    Why not just publish monthly charts of national and regional coverage and let market competition sort the problem out? Customers who spend virtually all their time in, say, the south-west don't really care about coverage elsewhere and will be looking at the number one or two for their area. Those who travel further afield may want the national chart topper. It will encourage the big firms to get a good place in the national chart by filling the holes in their coverage while leaving the smaller ones a chance to shine by specialising in a region or two.

  29. Phil_Evans

    White Badge

    I can't see the operators wanting to relinquish control of their own mast infrastructure where in doing do will interfere with their best-laid plans (and QOS restrictions) for White-badge joyriders, sorry, vendors that use their infrastructure. Tesco Mobile is O2 was cellnet is effectively still BT, etc. I can't see them releasing all these and other Machiavellian structures for the sake of competing alone.

    Pretty much like any other provider of services in the new and improved duopo..sorry, deregulated market, the Status Quo is often everyone's favourite horse to back.

    Is that enough euphemisms?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Norfolk?

    I thought he lost his mobi(!) signal in Cornwall, not Norfolk?

    I'll get my coat...

  31. Andrew Jones 2

    This nonsense about how about Network Operators won't bother to invest in their own infrastructure is bollocks. Three have had a roaming deal with various operators for years, and it doesn't stop them continuing to invest in their own network.

    The simplest way to ensure Networks continue to stay competitive and invest in their own networks is to make the National Roaming phone calls and texts only, (When roaming on 3 you can supposedly use data from T-Mobile or whoever they are these days, but you are better off not trying as it appears to be less that dial-up speed - if it even connects at all). Networks will continue to have incentive to invest because no-one wants to be on a network that has 100% coverage for phone use, but only 60% coverage for data. Lets not forget - the primary use of a mobile phone is for making and receiving calls, and particularly in an Emergency situation - being able to make a call regardless of whose network you are using is a very good thing. As for the built in "you have no coverage on your own network, but you can call emergency services using these other networks" - well according to an O2 engineer a few years ago who was trying to fix an issue with a local mast, that hasn't actually been enabled in the UK - the phone might tell you it's possible - but apparently - it's not. [Disclaimer: I have never actually tried to verify if the man was telling the truth - because I have never been in a situation where I've needed the functionality, perhaps an El Reg reader - could clarify?]

  32. Nuke
    Holmes

    Doesn't sound too hard to solve the financial balancing, which for some reason TFA assumes is impossible. Let operators pay each other for whatever cross-usage there has been. They could even buy a computer to do the sums.

  33. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Camoron wants roaming in the UK? He should buy a phone on O2 and go stand on the cliffs at Dover - should only be a matter of minutes before that "Welcome to France!" text comes in...

  34. Joel 1

    Roll out decent data coverage

    Rather than rushing around blathering about switching off analogue radio, by getting everyone to migrate to DAB, spend the money (and spectrum) on rolling out a decent data network across the country, and get radios to transition to network devices that can stream using apps like iPlayer Radio, or the multitude of dedicated radio apps.

    Who cares whether the program comes via packets or a radio transmission? Having a decent data network would be far more useful than the equine zombie that is DAB...

  35. JaitcH
    Happy

    The time has come, the Walrus said, for ...

    network sharing.

    Vietnam has a live body population of around 90-million souls and a registered, and working, population of around 120-million cell handsets.

    There are sizeable areas of this country with low population areas (ever visit the country check out Lai Chau Province - makes the Alps look like a Euro city) so the network operators (we have seven) actually share network facilities so if a Viettel handset demands service, the nearest mast, which might be Mobiphone or Vinaphone, gets to handle the call completely transparently - users have no idea who is actually carrying their signal.

    All it needs is common-sense, something Euro and North American operators seem to lack.

  36. JaitcH
    FAIL

    What's with the West - always slow to implement new technology

    America is supposed to be the world's technology leader yet huge swathes of the country lack cell coverage, let alone more advanced RF systems. Also missing from the comms mix are fibre optic cables, even ADSL - but they do have expensive Dial-Up service.

    Canada is larger than the States, and less populated, yet the federal government has put InterNet in all along the northern shores. Places with strange names such as Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Dawson City, Inuvit, Haines Junction, Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, etc. all hooked together with a 4 gigabyte system.

    Out in the Far East fibre optic dominates with digital services reaching right in to peoples homes besides the offices. We have 4G all over northwestern VietNam along with satellite services, multi-channel television and radio services for minorities.

    Meanwhile, in Britain, a country that could be dropped in to Lake Erie with room to spare, there are large areas without decent comms service.

    Mind you, Cameron's needs could have been filled had he taken a trip to Bude, where GCHQ busily taps undersea cables making landfall as well as pirating many satellite services the retransmits the purloined data to Gloucestershire and the USA.

    There's something very wrong in UK comms planning- which needed to keep the country competitive.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    phone call auctions

    The problem stems from how we pay/contract for our calls - by tying the consumer to one telco. A bit like being forced to signed up to one supermarket for 24 months.

    I would like to see a system where each individual call made is real-time auctioned and any/all of the telcos get an opportunity to bid for that call. The lowest bid gets the business. Its not like it would be beyond the whit of man to implement this. The auction is held over some agreed common frequency that all aerials listen to, if they want the business.

    If only one telco puts a mast in a remote area, they will get all the business from that area (assume some price capping from the regulator). Of course, the consumer would likely benefit from this through more competitive pricing. So, I guess it will never happen.

  38. Mike Shepherd

    "Boondocks"

    Maybe the author could explain his parochial version of English (after explaining his weird opinions).

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