Investigation into Vodafone’s compliance with Section 135 and 136 information requests
|Investigation into||Vodafone Limited|
|Case opened||01 October 2018|
|Case closed||31 January 2019|
Vodafone’s compliance with information requests under section 135 and 136 relating to mobile coverage predictions. Ofcom identified discrepancies between Vodafone’s 4G mobile coverage predictions data and Ofcom’s own drive-testing data, which led to concerns about the accuracy of information provided in response to Ofcom’s requests for 4G mobile coverage predictions across the UK.
|Relevant legal provision(s)||
Section 135 and 136 of the Communications Act 2003
Ofcom has closed its investigation into Vodafone’s compliance with our statutory information requests for 4G mobile coverage predictions.
These information requests are at the heart of our work as they enable us to gather information to support our research, policy development, decision-making and publications. It is essential that all Communications Providers submit accurate responses on time, and that we can rely on the information we receive.
Having identified potential discrepancies between the 4G mobile coverage predictions data Vodafone provided to us and our own drive-testing data, we raised this with the company. Vodafone told us that it had been including an adjustment to account for handset signal losses in the 4G predictions provided to Ofcom. This resulted in a discrepancy when applying the signal thresholds used by Ofcom.
This meant that Vodafone’s 4G mobile coverage across the UK was in practice higher than had previously been reported in our Connected Nations report. As such, some consumers 4G experiences may have been better than the coverage information available to consumers. Policymakers and consumers alike use Ofcom’s published mobile coverage information, so it is important that it is accurate.
Based on our review of the evidence and discussions with Vodafone, we are satisfied that:
- Vodafone told us about the issue as soon as it became aware of it;
- Its 2G and 3G mobile coverage predictions were unaffected;
- Vodafone reviewed its approach and briefed relevant staff to ensure that similar issues do not arise in future; and
- Vodafone cooperated with our investigation and worked with us to make the necessary updates to our Connected Nations report and our coverage checker.
We will continue to monitor, through drive-testing, the accuracy of operators’ mobile coverage predictions. This will ensure that consumers and stakeholders can access accurate information about mobile coverage across the UK. We will also continue to monitor compliance with statutory information requests more broadly, and take action where needed.
Ofcom collects mobile coverage data from communication providers to inform our policy work and a range of research reports. This data is also widely used by other stakeholders.
Mobile coverage data is also used to develop coverage maps and apps which, importantly, can help consumers to make informed decisions on which mobile provider to choose.
Ofcom requires communications providers (under sections 135 and 136 of the Communications Act) to provide accurate information upon request, in a designated format, and within a reasonable time period.
On 1 October 2018, Ofcom opened an investigation into Vodafone’s compliance with requests for 4G mobile coverage predictions across the UK under these rules. This followed on from the identification by Ofcom of errors in the 4G/800 MHz coverage data that Vodafone provided which meant that its 4G coverage was under-predicted, particularly in rural areas.
Ofcom’s investigation will examine whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that Vodafone has failed to comply with its obligations under sections 135 and 136 of the Communications Act 2003.
We are aiming to complete our evidence gathering phase in this investigation by the end of December. We will publish a further update on next steps once that phase is complete.
Sarah Packwood (email: email@example.com)