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Mobile Phones: Rural Areas

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 23 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what is being done to promote better mobile telephone coverage in rural areas of the country. (195219)

I have been asked to reply.

The mobile network operators build base stations in order to meet customers need for coverage and service. The decision to build in a particular location is largely a commercial matter for the operators.

For new 3G networks, an 80 per cent. population coverage obligation by 2007 was placed on each licence holder to encourage network rollout. This could equate to approximately 45 per cent. land area coverage averaged over the whole of the United Kingdom. The Office of Communications (Ofcom) has now completed its assessment of compliance with the obligation and has proposed action against O2, the one operator not yet having complied. However coverage beyond this obligation would again be a commercial matter for operators. For 2G or GSM networks the original coverage obligations laid on GSM operators were discharged many years ago and have been significantly exceeded on a voluntary basis.

In some areas, opposition to mast construction can have detrimental effect on operators’ plans to extend mobile phone coverage. It is possible that a direct approach to an operator indicating a suitable site might be productive in obtaining greater mobile coverage for an area.