back to article Why Comrade Cameron went all Russell Brand on the UK’s mobile networks

Dropped calls between President Obama to Prime Minister David Cameron on the Vodafone network over Christmas led to the government getting bossy with the mobile networks, according to industry sources. Shoulda used a landline, Dave... The PM was in rural Oxfordshire over Christmas and decided that “something must be done” …

  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    What

    >Dropped calls between President Obama to Prime Minister David Cameron

    Was this really a Vodaphone technical problem or was it NSA/GCHQ problem. Please don't let us believe that D Cameron and B Obama use "public" landlines to call each other.

    And now to get back onto the main subject. Why did it take this klind of problem to bring things to the surface. Aren't the "bumpkins" allowed to have the same services as everyone else. Do people forget that many city dwellers also have a country residence.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What

      It's more a case of nobody cared when it only affected the little people.

      Now Call Me Dave has had an issue SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: What

        "Now Call Me Dave has had an issue SOMETHING MUST BE DONE."

        And this is something therefore it must be done. A prime example of the politician's syllogism. Yes, Prime Minister.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: What

        Or that's a story put about by the phone companies as a way to frame the debate as PM had bad call, so decided to act in haste.

        I don't know how this idea actually came about, so don't know. I also see that it could have loads of problems. As you need to incentivise people to make the effort. But I'm sure there'd be fees for the networks to roam to each other, and you could allow mutual discounts for those that your users roam to, thus stopping Andrew O's Vampire Network from getting off the ground. Even if it was a realistic idea anyway, as roaming won't be free.

        The other way to address this is to say, "you're national networkds, so just bloody do it", and price accordingly. Or have discounts off the spectrum license for those that do.

        There does seem to be a bit of special pleading in here. The companies would of course say that they should be given incentives and sweeteners to do the thing that costs money.

        That's fair. Taxpayers have to pay for a public good. The other alternative is compulsion, in which case subscribers will be made to pay for a public good. Either are valid options - and both are taxes in all but name. Although only one adds to the government deficit.

        But then El Reg has been equally critical of the rural broadband roll-out, and the fact that so much of the cash has gone to BT. I'm pretty sure Andrew O has been one of those critics. So it seems the government can't win here.

    2. wikkity

      Re: What

      > Do people forget that many city dwellers also have a country residence.....

      pretty sure if I had one I would not any phone signal whilst I was there.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: What

        > Do people forget that many city dwellers also have a country residence.....

        >pretty sure if I had one I would not any phone signal whilst I was there.

        Our home is actually in the country but both myself and my wife have an appartment in town(s), we work in different cities. The internet/telephone is our lifeline during the week. My wife has lots of vacation so she is at home for half of the time.......

        And as much as I love being at home, I really, really wouldn't like to lose my connection. Think about it, no internet or phone during the weekends or holidays.....it's not as easy as it sounds.

        The ISPs love us as we have to pay 3 Internet connection bills + 2 mobile phone bills, and no we are not millionaires or high flyers but life is not easy without a connection... We have the cheapest subscriptions to all and we do not have television.

  2. Infury8r

    Kill two birds with one stone

    Why not put telephone masts on to of windmills?

    The latter are in high, rural locations, so would maximise coverage. They're already an eyesore, so making them slightly more conspicuous is not great issue.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Kill two birds with one stone

      > Why not put telephone masts on to of windmills?

      Depends whether the composite the blades are made from deflects the signal or not.

      I vote for solar powered drones loitering in high altitude flight. Then GCHQ can subsidise their cost by fitting cameras as well and monitoring our every move. :-)

      1. The BigYin

        Re: Kill two birds with one stone

        They sort-of have those y'know; http://www.altaerosenergies.com/

        Wouldn't take too much to bung some wireless connectivity in them as well.

    2. Anna Logg

      Re: Kill two birds with one stone

      I produced a feasibility study on doing just that for an infrastructure manufacturer back in 2008, and I've seen it done in Holland, so no reason why not. Don't mount the antennas behind the area blades though!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solution is simple, don't use Skodafone.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Solution not simple. Everyone else also crap.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    get real el reg

    Having previously worked for Vodafone Group for a number years in roles primarily (on reflection) focused on stifling innovation and shafting customers - I can happily say El Reg is drinking the MNO kool aid.

    While Javid's recommendations are not perfect - they are nowhere near a 'Claire Perry' sized cluster fuck, and probably where the market will naturally go in 5-10 years (with MNOs fighting hard to prevent it).

    Imagine if you have to buy and change a SIM card every time you wished to use a different WiFi network operator - crazy right? The best consumer scenario is the separation of network provision (wholesale) and billing (retail) - enabling me as a consumer to get the best signal, best bandwidth, cheapest signal depending on my settings.

    While we're at it - Javid might like to get in early on pricing for VoLTE (force peering over interconnect fee's); ensure operators provide wholesale rates comparable to those they provide their retail operations; mandate real time number porting; nomadic LTE (ability to log onto a network with usr/pwd or other credential rather than just a SIM)...just a thought.

    Operators will say/do anything to maintain their cozy cartel.

  5. gazzton

    Stick or Carrot

    I wonder how many of those technical barriers would magically disappear if there was a more direct financial inducement* to the networks to address the various issues and so deliver a better option to their customers?

    Their investment in licences and infrastructure has been staggering. You can't blame them for pushing back on plans that would damage their ROI or allow new entrants/MVNOs to pile in with minimal investment.

    * For example, the government could mandate that all future Public Sector mobile contracts (bet there's at least a few hundred thousands of those) can only be placed with a provider that meets a set of coverage/roaming conditions.

  6. TheProf
    Devil

    You call is brrrrrrrrrrrrr

    At least one network can't even hand over a call from England to Wales.

    A friend of mine regularly calls me as he drives across the border and we usually have a LOS as he does so. The sound quality starts to 'Dalek' then it goes 'Normal Collier' then it's dial tone time. How we laugh every time it happens.

    I can't remember which network he's with but it doesn't matter, they're all rubbish aren't they.

    1. chriswakey

      'Normal Collier'?

      Norman, surely?

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Re: 'Normal Collier'?

        Different phenomona

        Norman Collier is when you have dropouts so that you miss words or parts of words.

        Dalek is when the data rate drops for voice so you still hear all of the words, but the caller sounds like they are speaking through a "dalek" voice changing microphone.

        Record a voice and then encode it with successfully lower bitrates to hear the effect for yourself (you'll probably need to start at something like 80k and work down).

      2. TheProf

        Re: 'Normal Collier'?

        Yes it s ould be Norman. My typing is subject to sud en dropo ts and less t an pe fect err r cor ecti n.

  7. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    Notspots are a problem.

    As a very simple example, I used to be on a network whose quality in my house degraded over the last 5 years to the point where voice calls were frequently dropped or broken. I switched network a year ago, and my wide switched last month. This solves that one problem.

    However, if a customer of that network comes to my house, they have no usable service. Similarly, there are areas I have been with my new network where I get no coverage. And all of this is in a densely populated area. It could possibly be solved by national roaming, at least in part.

    When it comes to rural settings, things get even worse, to the point that there are many areas where you would get no signal on any network. This would be unaffected by national roaming.

    I would suggest that the best way to solve this problem would be a separate network provider to cover these not-spots, as a nationalised infrastructure company, or a company which all 4 networks were required to pay a subscription to. Their purpose is to build out at least a 2G network into those areas which would be so unprofitable that the existing providers would not do it. The costs are shared between all the networks, and the service is provided to all of them.

    1. Joel 1

      "Their purpose is to build out at least a 2G network into those areas which would be so unprofitable that the existing providers would not do it."

      2G?? What's the point of that? Who uses mobiles for phone calls these days? Even if they do, having a data network means that you can make calls as well.

      Actually, didn't one of the 4G frequencies O2 won come with a coverage requirement?

      "Ofcom has attached a coverage obligation to one of the 800 MHz lots of spectrum. The winner of this lot is Telefónica UK Ltd. This operator is obliged to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98% of the UK population (expected to cover at least 99% when outdoors) and at least 95% of the population of each of the UK nations – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – by the end of 2017 at the latest."

      What will that coverage look like? The roll out of 4G at 800 MHz is likely to be able to have far better coverage than 2G/3G.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Exactly... I have two phones, on O2 and Orange/T-Mobile/EE (whatever they are are) and I know some areas where there is no coverage on either bar of 2G, and using a modern smart phone on 2G is nigh on impossible!

        It's quicker to go for a walk down the street looking for a BT-FON wifi point I can jump onto than it is to wait for an email to load over 2G.

  8. Dominion

    Owen Jones was right. Build a public network and then sell access to it to the mobile operators to wrap bundles around it. And do the world a favour - force the operators to stop bundling network access with hardware. The sooner this happens the better.

    1. Dr Stephen Jones
      FAIL

      Fantastic idea, Dominion. Nurses and teachers will be well chuffed that their pay gets cut to pay for infrastructure costing billions a year.

      You can always tell when the Guardian readers turn up - they're the ones who need to take their shoes and socks off to count past 10.

      1. Dominion

        Eh? Infrastructure that is then paid for by selling access to it. Think 'not for profit' model on the infrastructure. Or even - gasp! shock! make a profit on it and invest in nurses and teachers. But not doctors, they're already overpaid. Especially consultants, they're the worst....

        1. YorksinOaks

          You are forgetting the compensation which the government will then have to pay the MNOs for their spectrum and to access their sites to put the Government Infrastructure onto.

          Then local planners will reject the additional antennas and the Government will finally bring in legislation that allows sites to be put in.

          Or the "Can't call me Dave" could lean on Arqiva to deliver MIP, the £150M government scheme to tackle not spots which they seem to have conveniently forgotten about. Launched 17 months ago, perhaps they are plagued by NIMBYs too.

          http://www.arqiva.com/our-views/mip-better-connecting-rural-britain/

          "11/06/2013

          MIP - Better connecting rural Britain

          Our business operates across a number of sectors. We provide the vital communication services that make it possible for public and private organisations to connect people for enriched and safer lives.

          And it’s for that reason that we’re proud to announce that we’ve been selected to deliver the government’s £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project, known as MIP, to improve mobile coverage across the UK.

          MIP will enable mobile services to be delivered to some of the most

          remote locations and communities in the UK where no mobile signal is

          currently available."

      2. Chad H.

        >>>>>Fantastic idea, Dominion. Nurses and teachers will be well chuffed that their pay gets cut to pay for infrastructure costing billions a year.

        How do you figure?

        NMNO Co. charges operators a fixed percentage of their Call/Data/SMS revenues, lets say 20%. This percentage is reviewable and set each year such that it covers all maintenance and a bit extra for Capittal development. We also give it the ability to borrow based on these revenues to build for Generation changes.

        When there is a technology/Generation change, we also give operators the right to "sponsor" the roll out giving them a lime-locked exclusivity, in exchange for eating the majority of the costs to roll it out.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Dominion,

      Do you remember when BT were a nationalised company? I'm sure Owen Jones doesn't. But a daytime peak rate national call cost updwards of 40p a minute. That's early 80s money as well. Even local calls were about 20p a minute.

      I'm not sure government infrastructure is a panacea.

      Now that we are where we are, it would seem extremely silly to nationalise the existing mobile companies, as well as being horrifically expensive. So why not just use the existing system to get what we want. Either tell the companies to just do it, put up or shut up. Or pay them to.

      However, don't do an Ed Miliband. Don't, as Sec State for Environment, force energy companies to charge their customers a government mandated surcharge to pay for feed-in tarrifs. Then act all shocked as Leader of the Opposition that energy prices have been shooting up, and demand price-freezes on the energy utilities.

      We can either throw a few billion of taxpayers' money at this. Although we are running a huge deficit at the moment. Or we can do it as a stealth-tax, by forcing the networks to do it, and get the money off subscribers or shareholders.

      Or we could ask them to allow roaming, and then let the one that bothers to have the network get paid by the others for it. If we set the price right, I'm sure one of them would build it to win extra rural customers.

      Or something else I'm not clever enough to think of.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Rubbish. When BT were nationalised, cheap rate local calls where 360 seconds (6 minutes) per unit and a unit was about 5p.

  9. Andrew Ducker

    I'm confused. Presumably when I can't get a Three signal and it automatically roams to O2 this will cause O2 to charge Three for the privilege.

    This, therefore, will tell Three exactly how much it would save by putting in another transmitter, and give it a good financial reason to do so. (Or to decide that it's not worth it for the £10 it pays per month to O2 for carrying its calls in that area).

    That strikes me as giving a _positive_ impetus for investment.

    Am I missing something?

    1. Magnus_Pym

      Yes you are missing something. Three passes on the cost to the customer, They all do. The customer doesn't like this. All customers in that area migrate to O2. All five of them. Three doesn't care, Three doesn't have to invest in the additional infrastructure, doesn't incur additional cost and so is cheaper than O2 for the millions who live in high traffic areas.

      The fact is the economics of the mobile phone cell network break down below a certain user density. That means it needs to be done a different way or funded a different way.

      1. Andrew Ducker

        Aaah. I wouldn't let the phone companies pass on extra costs for roaming.

        Basically, it's imposing a universal service coverage on all phone companies, but allowing them to delegate the service on to their competitors.

        1. Magnus_Pym

          "Basically, it's imposing a universal service coverage on all phone companies, but allowing them to delegate the service on to their competitors."

          An operator will put up a mast if the number of calls passing through it will cover the cost and the up-keep. In rural areas that is a risk. So one operator puts up a mast in a village. All their competitors share the coverage and so all of them know the economic case. If it turns out to be a good place for a mast the competitors can put up their own masts reducing the value of the first one. If not they can leave it on it's own and let the first operator carry the costs of an under-performing cell.

      2. Jim Hague

        Not following you

        All the local customers in the area are already on O2 anyway, because that's the only signal they can get. Visitors to the area, not on O2, get the option of roaming to O2 and giving O2 a chunk of *extra* revenue as a reward for providing service to an otherwise unserved area.

        People going overseas already happily pay a roaming charge. Why should the same not apply within a national border in lesser served areas? That way there's still a serious incentive for customers to switch based on service coverage; it's just less than the current all or nothing setup. Currently Three's business model of only providing coverage in high-density areas is in some measure protected by users being unable to use other networks when outside coverage. The only option for customers is to switch to another network, and they all have coverage blind spots (ironically, my work phone is O2, and I find their coverage invariably absent whenever travelling in the non-urban UK - and their 3G in central Oxford is dodgy at best), so unless you *personally* return a lot to the affected area, it's not worth switching and you go without. Rather than forcing Three to watch money flowing to O2.

        1. FunkyEric

          Re: Not following you

          People going overseas already have to pay a disproportionate roaming charge that they are not happy with.

          TFTFY

    2. Phil_Evans

      No, I don't think you have. Do telecomms providers walk away from infrastructure under new regulation? No=BT. Is there elasticity of demand in high tech markets? Yes. Will the Mobile operators throw their hands in the air or merely (and collusively) notch up call rates to compensate.

      This market is stagnant with little innovation, having become value-subtract data carriers. It needs a good poke in the eye.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You are missing who owns the cell sites

      Most cell sites are owned and managed by Arqiva. So if you have O2, you are likely to have 3, EE and Voda with the sole difference in reception being due to different propagation in the 900, 1800 and 2.1 GHz bands.

      That is the monopoly that needs busting, however that will never ever happen. Why... Well... it is a long story and I would rather not go into that. AC (for obvious reasons).

  10. Magnus_Pym

    But ... but ... but ...

    ... free markets encourage investment to the benefit of us all. The government just need to keep out of the way.

    What's that you're saying? Free markets are free to channel investment in short term, high profit, low risk operations if they want to? Who would have guessed they would do that then.

    P.S. Where is good for Vodafone coverage? I know It's not somewhere I've ever been.

  11. theOtherJT

    Surely this doesn't address the problem. About 5 minutes down the road from CallMeDave you enter an even darker part of Oxfordshire where there's no signal at all. None. No amount of roaming is going to help, because there's nothing to roam to. Doesn't matter what network you're on, you drive out there and all mobile devices go dead. I don't see how this is going to deal with the actual problem of none of the networks filling in these dead zones because they won't get enough return from the handful of customers who live in them.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Well there would be more of an incentive for one mobile network to build in difficult to reach areas. If it was able to hoover up the calls from all the networks passing through, not just its customers. That might actually be an incentive to fill common blackspots. Although also an incentive not to fix their own black spots.

      Whether this is technically feasible or not, is another matter.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really?

    Most of this article doesn't ring true. For instance a visitor to the UK can already use multiple networks and roam between them with the cost being billed to the home network.

    I can go to many countries in Europe or the world using Three and, with no additional cost, connect to multiple networks.

    You can currently call 999/112 from a mobile phone and it will connect through to any provider (i.e. we already have national roaming, at least for outbound emergency calls). Three also falls back to T-Mobile 2G when there is no Three 3G signal which has always worked pretty well, even after they merged with Orange.

    As for the economics, as said roaming works even for no cost (as in the Three example). ATMs also have a similar set up where you can use your Lloyds bank card in a Barclays ATM and vice versa. The other charging a small fee to do so. Therefore a rural location might only have one cashpoint but the operator can make money on it if enough customers from other banks use it. The same could happen for MNOs.

    Your startup company, Vulturenet, that was mentioned is no different to an MVNO (like GIff Gaff) that piggy backs on a MNO and pays them money for each call/data. It's just that they could use any operator not just a single one. They don't have the capital costs and no-one seems to complain about that?

    Of course the operators don't want this to happen, doesn't mean it can't, it just needs someone to look into the viability of it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      I believe Three stopped using T-Mobile's 2G signal quite some time ago.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Really?

        Three never had roaming to Tmo. They originally had roaming to O2 2G and later migrated it to Orange 2G. It only works for Voice and SMS though, and only in areas where Three coverage is below a certain population %.

        Three do have a *network share* deal with Tmo though (Google for "MBNL").

  13. Crisp Silver badge

    Vodaphone are still trashing my credit rating

    Even though I finished my contract with them years ago. If they can't get simple addition right, then what chance to they have of providing a stable telephone signal?

  14. David_H
    FAIL

    Solution - NOT!

    If you live in a NOT-SPOT you can always buy a Vodafone Sure Signal for £100.

    Three problems with this:

    . You may be on another network

    . Why should you pay to fix Vodafone's problem

    . You need good broadband to use for the backhaul

    The other mobile conglomerate sells their offering for £450, but that's only a repeater and so no good if you are in a true NOT-SPOT

    I did look at applying for Vodaphone Rural Open Sure Signal (a single booster for the whole village) but we are disallowed due to our lack of broadband speed!

    Vodafone Sure Signal and other work-arounds for the mobile operators inadequate service should be free to those affected - OFCOM where are your teeth?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solution - NOT!

      We have one of the plug socket ones and the hardware is a pile of shit. It's unreliable, it overheats badly and it takes 10 minutes to start up properly.

      According to the manual it requires that the following ports are forwarded: 8, 50, 53, 67, 68, 123, 500, 1723, 4500, 33434–33445. So if you are already running a DNS server or a PPTP or ipsec VPN then you are shit out of luck.

      The implication is that Voda can remote in via VPN to admin the device, but on most home or SME networks that means they'll have access to everything else on the network.

      Irritatingly there is a 3 mast in the car park and none of this would be a problem if we could free roam.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pedantry...

    That upside down V in the subhead is a Greek L (lambda). Admittedly when Brand says it, it probably does sound a bit like "relolution" and I like the lol in the middle. But I'm still not going to look at his booky wook.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Pedantry...

      Apparently his booky-wook was at least partially ghost written. So it's always possible that he hasn't even looked at it either. Like so many sports biographies, and I assume all those books by Jordan...

  16. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    none of the objections add up, roaming is already up and running for foreigners, it's just the aboriginal inhabitants who are tethered to their masts.

  17. David Roberts Silver badge
    WTF?

    Degrade the networks?

    Just checking.....

    .....if my single SIM phone is allowed to roam between networks then the world as we know it will come to an end.

    If I have a dual SIM phone in the same area and can switch between carriers for individual calls then all is sweetness and light. I can also take calls on both networks, I believe.

    If I have a main phone on contract, plus a 25 quid emergency phone with three PAYG SIMs I am covered but paying three PAYG top up fees so again all is sweetness and light, although urgent incoming calls may well be tricky on the backup numbers. Perhaps a dual SIM main phone and a budget dual SIM backup?

    Oh, and isn't the fruity one offering a soft SIM in a phone?

    Possibly a nice way to avoid the multiple SIM cards.

    So the only thing not readily available is the automated hand off between networks during a call.

    Fine.

    I would be happy to select a backup network should I find myself in a dead spot for my main network and stick with that for the duration of a call.

    Why can't we solve the simple problem - stuck in the arse end of nowhere and can't phone or text - instead of bitching that some pf the advanced bells and whistles will be difficult?

    The complaint that you get a better service roaming abroad than being in your native country is a valid one.

    Oh, and when you are roaming abroad do you get an automated hand off between networks during a call?

    If not, then the service providers are just trying to bullshit us all.

    A model where you use contract minutes on your main network and pay PAYG rates when roaming seems reasonable and equitable.

    1. David_H

      Re: Degrade the networks?

      Nice idea, but no good if you are in a non-spot for all the carriers - which is a surprisingly large area of the county

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The non-tech angle

    I'd say there's nothing wrong with his signal. His face is becoming so round, that he's having problems holding the phone to his ear, while still being able to speak into the mic. One of those 'candlestick' style phones should do the trick. Someone invent a mobile one of those for him.

  19. Bunbury

    Disappointing

    Rule #1 of international carriage should have kicked in and blamed the connection at the other end. As per this real life drains up dialogue I had with a US carrier years back:

    US: "At this stage, the European earth station stopped receiving our signal"

    UK: "Yes, correct. Because there was a storm in the area of the US earth station and your US station manager put his dish into the high wind survival position but forgot to put in the locking pins. Hence the dish became a 30m frisbee."

  20. Jim 59

    The country

    Isn't poor mobile coverage one of the natural drawbacks of living in the country ? A beautiful view == poor services. It is precisely the lack of cars, shops, masts, people, schools, hospitals, roundabouts etc. that makes Glen Coe so appealing. You want an easy life, move to the scruffy 'burbs like the rest of us.

    Ok that is not really my view. Any readers from the USA like to explain how they do it over there ? How's the Grand Canyon for coverage?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The country

      Not too wide of the mark in my experience.

      A couple of years ago my local paper was covering a campaign to block a mobile mast being put up in a certain village. The protests succeeded - planning permission was denied.

      A few months ago the same paper was covering complaints from residents of that same village about their poor mobile service. The local Councillor was interviewed and said he would be taking matters up with the network.

      Apparently these people believe that mobile networks spend all that money on masts just for the fun of it :-/

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        Re: The country

        Phones are important. Masts cause cancer - everyone knows that.

        That's why they don't want one in the village - it might make them irrational.

      2. Brian Morrison

        Re: The country

        It's worse than that.

        Similar thing happened locally, and being a techy I was asked to explain to the antis all about the benefits of having a base station locally. This was in a pub, fortunately.

        I started off by explaining about radio wave propagation. Within a few seconds a lady piped up "But it's a phone, not a radio!" "No, it uses radio to transmit the signals needed to carry the voices" I said. "Oh, so that's why I get the nice lady that sounds just like the one on Radio 4" she said.

        I settled for a couple of pints in the end.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: The country

      "Isn't poor mobile coverage one of the natural drawbacks of living in the country ?"

      If the country in question is Theresa May's United Kingdom then it certainly will be one of the drawbacks in the near future. The Times is reporting this morning that she's decided that decent mobile coverage aids terrorism and should be stopped for the sake of the children, or something.

      It's been a few years since a Home Secretary went native in quite such spectacular fashion. Maybe her head decided it was Guy Fawkes Night and it ought to blow up or something. (I reckon that Norman Baker chappie got out just in time.)

  21. Baggypants

    You can get UK roaming sims RIGHT NOW

    VultureNet is already here

    http://www.aa.net.uk/telecoms-sip2sim.html

  22. Colin of Rame
    Thumb Up

    Would UMA help

    I would love to be on a network that provides UMA so I can convert my house from a blackspot with my existing WiFi that I am already paying for.

    Cost to net work - approx zero ( requires a bit of an interface at their end)

    Cost to me - zero, I already pay for my broadband. ( an app on my phone possibly required )

    If all networks and handsets supported UMA it would allow a local communities to install wifi hotspots to support mobile handsets in GSM blackspots at very low cost.

    Vulturenet could be a realistic option if it piggybacked on one of the major carriers networks like Tesco et all, but in addition allowed Wifi UMA . So who is going to volunteer to run with this .....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Would UMA help

      A couple of the networks have apps that allow calls over WiFi.

      They don't use UMA though, and obviously you need to have a smartphone. No doubt a lot of the bumpkins don't ;-)

      1. Gary Heard

        Re: Would UMA help

        As a "bumpkin" that owns a smartphone (actually 2 on different networks) I think UMA is a wonderful idea, however, we end up back at the problem where a Mobile "Not Spot" is also a broadband "Not Spot".

        Someone's suggestion of making the "national" MNO's actually be national is a good idea

        How do my smartphones work? by sucking 25% of my broadband capacity -- Voda Suresignal and O2 Boostbox, but at least I can make a call.

        Apparently next year BT will finally let me get a BB connection in excess of 20Mb

  23. ukgnome Silver badge

    I was going to suggest that we mount relays on lamp posts like some sort of ad-hoc P2P mobile network....And then I remembered that my pleasant rural village doesn't have lamp posts.

  24. h4rm0ny

    Most useful remedy might be to simply provide more information to the public on call quality. If it were easy to see what the best quality network was in a given area, you'd rapidly be able to build a mental profile of the different providers (especially in locales important to you such as where you live and where you work).

    At the moment, you get irritated with provider X so you look around and maybe you go to provider Y. But you don't really know until you're with them if they're going to be better, worse, the same... If I as a customer could - at home - fire up my phone and see "Vodafone - capacity / quality X; Three - capacity / quality Y; etc." then I'd be able to make a much more informed choice.

    And informed customers drive competition like little else.

    1. The BigYin

      "Most useful remedy might be to simply provide more information to the public on call quality."

      You could probably use an FoI to OfCom to get that, whole will then refuse under "Commercial Confidentiality".

      The one thing a Tory government does not want is more openness and the possibility of being scrutinised by the public. Not that Labour would be any better. Both cut from the same cloth.

  25. The BigYin
    Mushroom

    So he admits he doesn't care about the public

    People moan about the fractured nature of the mobile space in the UK, this upper-crust, Etonian old-boy doesn't give two damns.

    He has a problem with one or two calls and all hell lets lose.

    Maybe if his pension funds collapse or his back mis-sells him some insurance he'll begin to give a crap about regulating the financial sector.

    Until then, it'll be the usual "Piss off, prole" attitude from the Tories.

    1. Vic

      Re: So he admits he doesn't care about the public

      Until then, it'll be the usual "Piss off, prole" attitude from the Tories.

      That attitude is not exclusive to any party :-(

      Vic.

  26. Elmer Phud Silver badge
    WTF?

    That'll fix it thought Ron, but he was wrong

    "No.10’s preferred solution isn’t better infrastructure, but giving consumers the ability to roam from network to network. "

    I thought he was banging on about coverage.

    When you look at coverage maps for the networks there are areas where none of them have anything planned at all. Roaming from nothing to nothing sure ain't 'coverage'.

  27. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Meh

    "No.10’s preferred solution isn’t better infrastructure, but giving consumers the ability to roam from network to network. "

    Not going to help much if there's no signal to roam to. They do tend to co-site their antennas so coverage maps are very similar and that 20% of the landmass without coverage will still stay without coverage.

    One of the more irritating things about the current setup is that you can't get a multinetwork femto/micro cell setup. To cover all the networks you have to get at least 3 sets. (EE/O2/Voda), which substantially increases setup costs.

  28. Steve 57

    Change the Panning permission rules first!

    Surely half the problem is getting planning permission for the masts because the public don't want these eyesores 'in their back yard'? This certainly applies to the road I live in, the old folk just don't like 'em. I know its a royal pain in the ass in some areas, a change in law should be looked at by Mr C before pushing operators into looking at making drastic changes to their infrastructure. If one operator has a mast and coverage in one rural area then relaxing planning permissions so that masts that are approved can be shared by multiple service providers is worth looking at first?

    I don't know much about the way it all works but I know for a fact that we had a mast up in my road for one operator which annoyed the hell out of the 'residence association', it went though but then a subsequent mast was applied for by another Telco and that one was rejected,, a pain in the ass because that was for the operator I was using at the time.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Change the Panning permission rules first!

      I don't know if they've been trying to change planning rules on mobile masts. But there's been a running bunfight within the coalition on relaxation of planning rules, which was a Conservative policy at the last election.

      Part of this was because it was policy to try and get more houses built. And infrastructure like HS2. But of course you then get MPs in the effected constituencies whose survival instincts kick in.

      To be fair to Cameron, he's pushed quite a few policies that he knew would piss off his own core vote, because he believed they were the right thing to do. Such as HS2, gay marriage, relaxing planning in the crowded South East. Which is something we tell politicians we want them to do. Then scream at them for.

  29. HamsterNet

    Advertising Rules

    Just make it so that Every single phone advert must clearly state the % of UK Land Mass that can use the service being advertised.

    So EE can say we cover 1% of the UK with 4G.

    02 can say we cover what 10% of the land with 3G

    and Vodafone can say we have a single mast somewhere which we may turn on ...

    Encourage a race to the top.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Advertising Rules

      Are you a Vodafone fan by any chance? Don't sit on the fence, tell us what you really think...

      Myself I found their coverage OK. It was the several months when they forgot our company had a shared data contract. One month our bill for 7 phones came in at £2,500!!! I think our total usage was about 1.5GB, so even at non-contract pay as you go rates, that's a crimial rip-off. Yes they did credit us. Then forgot for one week of the next month. So our bill was only £600 that time.

      1. Vic

        Re: Advertising Rules

        It was the several months when they forgot our company had a shared data contract

        Vodafone's administration is crap.

        After I stopped paying my bill, it took them four years to disconnect me...

        Vic.

  30. Jim Howes

    UK roaming already happening

    Ok, so it may seem like it goes via a slightly strange route, but in-UK roaming is already possible.

    Andrews & Arnold, via Sip2Sim have been doing this for a little while now. See http://www.sip2sim.uk for full details.

    SIM's are normal O2 virtual service provider SIMs (same principle as Tesco use on O2 and Asda use with Voda), but on being unable to receive an O2 signal, or on being poked at via the SIM service menus, will switch to a Dutch Vodaphone ID, thus allowing them to roam on UK EE and Vodaphone networks.

    The service requires a VoIP contract (with any provider you might choose) and effectively makes your handset an extension of you VoIP system, but once configured, as far as the end user is concerned, it's a phone.

    The gotcha, if you consider it as such, is that incoming calls are also chargable, as you are paying for airtime; outgoing calls are charged at a flat rate regardless of where they are going, because again, it's only airtime. The actual dialled-number based call cost is dependent on what VoIP provider your call is handed off to (so if you run your own office VoIP server, if it costs you 2p/min to call Outbackistan, then that is what it will cost from the mobile (plus the airtime charge))

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is it with the Government, given a wide open field full of possible solutions they go out of their way to pick what is probably the worst one you could conceive of.

    The problem here is that they want the best bits of a free market and the best bits of state owned infrastructure and they are mutually exclusive. The best I can come up with would be something along the lines of the government setting up a mobile infrastructure company dedicated to covering the not-spots. Users would then be able to roam between their provider and the government provider only. The regular providers would choose which government masts they subscribed to and would pay per amount of data (I'm assuming voice is treated as data here) sent over those masts. Depending on the pricing there is a possible disincentive for the regular providers building their own masts but they probably weren't going to do that anyway. The chance of this happening is zero of course because it's not a totally nutty idea.

  32. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Oh give me a home where the VultureNets roam...

    It advertises low prices and has a capex budget for its first 10 years of precisely £0.00. All calls are therefore roaming calls, parasitic on the established four networks’ infrastructure.

    This ain't no "roaming call". VultureNet is a "virtual operator" and I would guess they will have to pay the infrastructure provider buckos to carry traffic. "Roaming" is when you log in to another network to make the call, and I can tell you that fat files are changing hands servers daily for "reconciliation". "Parasitic" my lice-infested arse.

    Also, these operator arguments sound very much like some of the stuff I was ordered to make up when employed a national incumbent operator (not UK) more than a decade ago. They nearly make sense.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom's Mission Statement

    Isn't providing a lousier customer choice what Ofcom do for a living anyway?

    Oh, and didn't Call-me-Dave promise to abolish them in his last manifesto, or was that just a Nick Clegg kind of promise?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You almost had me there for a minute...

    Call me Dave standing up for the non-millionaires.

    Silly me.

    1. Vic

      Re: You almost had me there for a minute...

      Call me Dave standing up for the non-millionaires.

      I can't be the only one thinking of Call-Me-Kenneth when reading that moniker...

      Vic.

  35. All names Taken
    Alien

    Shame innit!?

    The dash to the new national status of once was UK of GB n NI to the grande duchy of Londres continues with mucho gusto?

    Will the future permit reintroduction of carrier pigeons provided Whitehall has sufficient clout to get MPs to do anything about it?

    And what about other issues?

  36. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    'National Roaming'? Been there, done that

    Countries as disparate as Canada and VietNam have a problem. Size.

    City wide mobile systems in Canada having roaming agreements with country-wide carriers and seamlessly transfer even during a conversation. The whole process is transparent to the User and the cell handset displays the Home Network logo and messages.

    Here in VietNam we have some very large wide open spaces, particularly in the northwest and in jungle areas yet, because of national roaming, everyone has cell system coverage.

    When, as occasionally happens, a remote cell base on a mountain, say in Son La Province or in the equally mountainous Ha Giang Province, fails users don't lose service, the cell network operators just activate the failed equipment standby plan, switch to a competitors network, and everyone is safe and secure knowing they are but a click away from help.

    These Cellco's should realise that others outside the clubby industry, know technical details and can tell when they are lieing, again.

  37. Magnus_Pym

    Figures please

    Exactly how much of the land area is covered by a some but not all carriers? That is the only part that this plan will have any effect. The area not currently covered by any carrier is, I suspect, much larger.

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