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Mobile and Broadband Coverage: Rural Areas

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 3 December 2015

10. What steps the Government have taken to improve mobile phone reception and broadband service in rural areas. (902538)

I am thrilled with the progress we are making on broadband and mobile coverage. [Laughter.] Labour Front Benchers like to mock me, but I want to tell you, Mr Speaker, about the International Telecommunication Union, which states that the UK has risen from 10th to fourth in the broadband rankings, overtaking Sweden, overtaking Holland, overtaking Hong Kong and overtaking Finland. The broadband European scorecard, published this week, showed that once again we are at the top of the EU big five. That is progress.

Yes, progress indeed—but I am interested in Shropshire, which I represent and where issues remain outstanding. I very much hope that the Minister will give me some assurances about the work to improve coverage in Shropshire and to reform the electronic communications code.

Broadband roll-out in Shropshire is now exceeding the number of Michelin stars. Almost 12,000 homes in my hon. Friend’s constituency have been passed by our broadband programme, and we will get to 92% of his constituency. We will reform the electronic communications code to make broadband roll-out go even faster, especially when we introduce our universal service obligation.

15. A report published by Ofcom in August found that 24% of Scotland’s landmass had no mobile signal, and the highlands and islands continue to be the worst areas for 3G coverage in the UK. The 4G mobile option took no account of Scottish Government proposals to set coverage requirements for each local authority. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure connectivity across all parts of the UK with 5G licences? Does he agree that 5G may be part of a solution to provide superfast broadband in rural areas? (902543)

I have to say that 5G is some way off, but I am pleased that we are investing in the research. The hon. Gentleman may be looking at our plans to clear the 700 MHz spectrum, which will provide even better mobile coverage, but I know that he will rise with me to applaud the licence deal that we did with the mobile operators to get 90% geographical coverage around the UK by the end of 2027, with his interests firmly in our hearts.