MPs call on Ofcom for better mobile broadband

Mobile broadband

MPs have urged Ofcom to push phone operators into providing better mobile broadband coverage.

In a House of Commons debate yesterday, led by a motion from Tory MP Rory Stewart, all parties agreed the upcoming spectrum auction should result in better mobile broadband coverage for the UK and the telecoms regulator should force providers to raise their game.

"Rural businesses and rural communities across the UK are isolated and undermined by slow broadband and the lack of mobile voice and mobile broadband coverage," said Stewart.

He believed an obligation to provide coverage for 98 per cent of the UK should be laid down by Ofcom. Current regulations state 95 per cent of the country should have access 90 per cent of the time although MPs argued this was probably an "overestimate" of what current coverage was.

"This is the last chance for a generation to provide good mobile broadband coverage for six million people who will not otherwise get it," added Stewart.

He also pointed to the affect a lack of coverage could have on enterprises, having to focus their location on connectivity rather than business needs.

"By 2015 it will not be just data-rich businesses or internet-rich businesses, but the basic small and medium-sized enterprises that will be dependent on these devices to cut their transaction costs, increase their reach to market, drop their advertising costs and so on," said Stewart.

"Are we prepared to turn round to every one of those businesses and say, 'Of course it is extremely beneficial for a business to have these services in fact, it is the only way a business can compete and survive but because you don't happen to be located in the very centre of London, you are not going to be able to work in that way?'"

Ofcom said it "welcomed the debate" and was consulting on the final design of the spectrum auction.

"Our objective is to encourage investment, promote competition and deliver a wide range of services for consumers," added a spokesperson.

The response is unlikely to silence Stewart, however, who concluded: "Let us not allow the clever arguments of narrow economists who are blind to technology and obsessed with making their auction feature in a particular fashion allow Britain to miss the chance to get what it needs for its economy, for its society, for its health, for its education and for its communities by signing up to the best superfast mobile and broadband coverage in Europe."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.