Joint letter to ministers
Businesses urge action on mobile coverage
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) wants ministers to back Ofcom’s demand for there to be obligations to improve coverage to an upcoming sale of mobile spectrum.
The most recent Ofcom data, published last week, shows that UK mobile phone coverage is poorer outside England.
Ofcom is currently consulting on coverage obligations in the award of the 700 MHz spectrum band. The regulator proposes that successful operators would provide good voice and data services across at least 92% of the UK’s total landmass.
Obligations would also be attached to provide good coverage across 92% of Northern Ireland and England’s landmass, 83% of Wales’ landmass and 76% of Scotland’s landmass.
Andy Willox (pictured), FSB’s Scottish policy convener said: “Mobile phone coverage in many parts of Scotland is unacceptably poor. This makes it more difficult to do business, and harms the experience of visitors.
“Ministers must ensure that Ofcom squeezes every drop of value from their upcoming sale – driving better coverage in areas that have been under serviced in the past.””
In the letter to the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, and his counterparts for Wales and Northern Ireland, Alun Cairns and Karen Bradley, the FSB argues: “Across the length and breadth of the UK, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) wants to see digital infrastructure which meets the needs of businesses and local communities.
“We expect that you share these ambitions, and we look forward to working with you to turn them into a reality.”
Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Colin Smyth said: “Scotland faces a real digital divide, with huge swathes of the country, in particular rural areas, suffering from no or slow broadband and poor mobile connectivity.
“It’s not good enough for the UK Government to simply wait for mobile phone companies to fill those gaps. We need direct intervention from UK Government to make it happen by placing clear obligations on mobile phone providers.
“The Scottish Government can also play a role by ensuring that commercial coverage can piggyback on the masts that will be developed to deliver the new emergency services programme.
“Beyond funding future-proofing of mast upgrades so that they can provide commercial coverage, the Scottish Government also has a role to play in ensuring that our planning system does not act as a barrier to improved mobile connectivity. Scotland’s communities are being left behind and they deserve better.”