Five-point plan for improving mobile coverage

17 October 2016

Improving mobile coverage for consumers is a priority area for Ofcom.

That is why we are leading or supporting initiatives to improve mobile coverage, as part of a five-point plan.

We also want to help consumers make the right choices by providing them with high quality, reliable and transparent information about mobile reception.

Find out more about the five-point plan to improve mobile coverage.

Paving the way for near-universal 4G coverage

The 4G auction was designed in such a way that one provider – O2 – has to provide 4G mobile services indoors to 98% of premises across the UK by 2017. Other mobile operators have said that they intend to match this coverage, extending mobile broadband coverage into many areas still under-served by 3G.

Improving existing 3G coverage

The 3G auction in 2000 only required operators roll out services to cover 80% of the UK population. In 2010, the Government directed Ofcom to increase this to 90%, and we have worked with industry to ensure that all mobile operators are hitting this coverage obligation.

Extending coverage into hard-to-reach areas

Even once 4G roll-out has been completed, there will still be a small percentage of homes where providing mobile services is not commercially viable. The Government is spending up to £150m on new mobile infrastructure to bring services to homes that have previously missed out.

Ofcom is advising the Government on the technical aspects of a range of ways to help improve mobile coverage. National roaming is one of a number of topics being discussed with Government and mobile providers.

Increased infrastructure sharing (between Vodafone and O2, and between Three and EE) is expected to lead to coverage improvements for those networks.

Operators are also exploring innovative solutions to serve consumers in weak coverage areas (and in particular to improve indoor coverage), such as the deployment of femto-cells, and technology which allows calls to be made over Wi-Fi.

Driving up quality of service through better consumer information

We recently published new research into the quality of mobile services. This information is important in helping consumers choose a mobile service that best suits their needs.

The report includes research on mobile phone call quality, from the consumers' perspective, on mobile handsets; data supplied by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone on the performance of their networks; and consumer research on satisfaction with mobile networks.

Separately, we intend to publish data soon, showing the average mobile broadband speeds received by 3G and 4G customers. We believe this information will help consumers make the right choices and encourage providers to improve their performance.

Improving rail and road coverage

We are providing technical support to the Department for Transport and Network Rail in their work to improve mobile services on railways. The DfT is set to invest £53m to improve Wi-Fi access on trains.

We are also assessing mobile coverage on UK roads and expect to publish our findings this autumn.

Read our guide to maximising your mobile coverage