Have I missed something?
And there’s a lot to be said for stimulating competition by beefing up MVNOs, rather than dogmatically insisting on four networks. Nimbler virtual operators are better placed to pass on cost savings than major networks, and can leverage their existing footprint and other marketing channels.
Of course the MVNOs are "nimble"; they don't have to find either the capital to invest in infrastructure or the revenue to fund all the planning that goes into network expansion. In one sense they parasitise upon the actual network operators. Furthermore if cost savings are passed on to end users then where is any money for network development to come from?
Britain’s problem isn’t that prices are too high, it’s the spotty coverage, a sign of weak investment.
Well there's a surprise! If competitive pressures reduce network operators' income then "weak investment" - evidenced by "spotty coverage" - is bound to follow just as night follows day. The growth in the user base must have flattened out by now, although users may well be taking out more expensive contracts for data services but that slowing of income growth (irrespective of competitive pressures) will mean that there simply isn't the cash to fund filling the gaps; if filling a gap generated a corresponding growth in usage and thus income then all well and good, but if it doesn't then the gap filling exercise is simply a financial burden on the network operator.
I simply cannot see how wanting "cheap" services and better coverage can both be achieved at the same time. If there was a regulator called "OFCAR" who demanded "Rolls Royce standard" cars should be available at Mini prices we'd all laugh our heads off.