Ofcom varies mobile operators’ licences to improve coverage

02 February 2015

Ofcom has varied the licences of the UK’s four mobile network operators to improve mobile coverage across the country.

This follows an agreement reached between the Government and EE, O2, Three and Vodafone in December 2014 to increase mobile coverage.

The licence variations commit the four operators to provide voice coverage across 90% of the UK’s landmass by the end of 2017.

In light of these variations, Ofcom will shortly consult further on the annual licence fees for the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum bands.

The Government directed Ofcom in 2010 to revise these fees to reflect full market value after the completion of the 4G auction. The two bands are used for 2G and 3G, including voice calls, and some 4G services.

Improving mobile coverage

Helping to improve mobile coverage and quality of service are important objectives for Ofcom.

Ofcom continues to make progress on its plan to help improve coverage in the UK and provide consumers with reliable information, such as maps, on mobile reception.

Ofcom published research on both mobile voice quality of service and mobile broadband speeds in 2014 and will publish further research on mobile data this spring.

This kind of research is designed to support consumers in choosing a service that best suits their needs, while helping promote competition between mobile operators on service quality.

Separately, Ofcom is working with Government on its £150m mobile infrastructure project, which is funding mobile phone masts in uncovered areas.



  1. EE, O2, Three and Vodafone had each signed terms to vary their licences by 30 January 2015.
  2. Ofcom’s 4G auction in 2013 was designed in such a way that one licence - acquired by O2 - has to roll out 4G to cover at least 98% of the UK population (when indoors) by 2017 at the latest. This results in more than 99% coverage for 4G when outdoors. Other UK mobile operators have indicated they intend to match the 98% coverage. Ofcom’s UK Mobile Services Map 2013 provides information on the level of outdoor mobile coverage in the UK by administrative authority.
  3. All four mobile providers currently meet the 3G mobile coverage obligation to reach 90% of UK premises, while EE, Three and Vodafone have indicated they intend to match O2’s 98% indoor coverage obligation for 4G mobile by the end of this year. This will extend mobile broadband coverage into many areas still underserved by 3G.