The government has confirmed it will pay telecoms firms to extend mobile coverage into rural areas where mobile reception – and particularly 3G coverage – is patchy or non-existent.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has alerted suppliers to the fact that it will pay to extend mobile coverage to the five to 10 per cent of the UK population living in such areas. It expects to complete the project by early 2013.
“In certain areas of the UK, particularly remote areas, there is a limited commercial case for market-driven private investments to achieve the required enhancement to coverage and quality of service,” the DCMS states in a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The procurement process is being overseen by the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) team, whose main role is to oversee the allocation of funding for the deployment of superfast broadband across the UK.
BDUK has yet to decide on the best way to extend mobile coverage, but may choose to either pay for mobile operators to extend coverage to areas where it would currently be uneconomic for them to do so, or buy the necessary infrastructure itself.
Chancellor George Osborne revealed his intention to pay to extend mobile coverage in the UK in his autumn statement.
He committed to spending a mere £150m on the project – an amount dismissed at the time as inadequate by those watching the market.
Last week, the Countryside Alliance criticised BDUK over the glacial pace of the broadband funding. It discovered, via Freedom of Information requests, that none of the councils that had been allocated funding for superfast broadband had received any money from the Treasury.