Friday, 20 January 2017

Ofcom slams UK's poor geographic 4G coverage

By Nick Wood, Total Telecom
Friday 16 December 16

U.K. telco regulator also sounds warning over lack of FTTP coverage.

Ofcom on Friday slammed poor 4G coverage across the U.K. landmass, and said it is concerned that the country compares unfavourably to its peers when it comes to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connectivity. In a letter sent to the CEOs of the U.K.'s mobile operators, Ofcom CEO Sharon White said there could be a range of technical approaches and regulatory options "…

Ofcom on Friday slammed poor 4G coverage across the U.K. landmass, and said it is concerned that the country compares unfavourably to its peers when it comes to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connectivity.

In a letter sent to the CEOs of the U.K.'s mobile operators, Ofcom CEO Sharon White said there could be a range of technical approaches and regulatory options "that can help materially move the dial" towards 100% landmass coverage.

According to Ofcom, 72% of premises now receive an indoor 4G signal from all four operators, up from 28% this time last year. However, geographic coverage remains poor, with 4G signal from all four operators available in just 40% of the U.K.'s landmass.

Some measures to improve coverage are already in the pipeline, White said, such as improving indoor coverage with small cells, reforming planning rules, and opportunities that may arise from the rollout of the Emergency Services Network (ESN). Ofcom is also considering imposing coverage obligations when it eventually auctions the 700 MHz band.

Ofcom is working on a programme of work for next summer to understand how much coverage will improve under operators' current investment plans, and to identify options to extend coverage even further.

"It will be key to this work that we understand your (operators') perspective on these issues," White said.

On the fixed-line side of things, Ofcom said the U.K. compares favourably to its international peers when it comes to the availability of broadband services offering a minimum speed of 10 Mbps. According to Ofcom, the U.K. ranks fifth out of the 19 markets it examined, ahead of most European countries, but behind Singapore, Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands.

The U.K. also ranks fifth when it comes to fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) coverage.

However, when it comes to FTTP connectivity, the U.K. plunges like a rock down the ranking, coming in 17th out of 19 countries.

Ofcom hopes its recent decision to enforce greater separation between BT and Openreach, and requiring the U.K. incumbent to improve access to its ducts and poles for altnets will help to drive 'full fibre' rollouts.

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