The government's push towards implementing a national roaming standard, allowing phone users to bypass coverage black spots by jumping between networks, sounds good on paper. But it's been described as potentially doing more harm than good by the leading networks, and has inspired EE to commission an independent report into the impact it may have on the UK mobile industry.
Researchers at Capital Economics have found that national roaming "would likely increase 2G voice and messaging geographical coverage by just two to four percentage points," but at a cost of £3 billion over the five-year roll out period.
The report also states that the complete 4G rollout for the UK could be delayed by two years as a result of the national roaming scheme, and that it could introduce a whole new headache for mobile users in the form of "signal locking", where a user would be unable to access data services for several minutes when jumping from one network to another.
"Furthermore, and contrary to the government’s intentions, thinly covered rural areas could see significant reductions in investment," adds the report.
"Mobile networks are currently ‘excludable’, meaning that an operator can stop non-subscribers accessing its services. They can compete on coverage, which gives them an incentive to provide infrastructure in areas where it would not be cost effective to do so on its own merits. But by ending this excludability and allowing ‘free riding’, national roaming would remove any incentive to provide coverage in unprofitable areas."
Of course, though the report is said to be an independent one, it's worth remembering that having been commissioned by EE there may be a vested interest in painting national roaming in a poor light. Regardless, it seems that EE, at the very least, won't roll over on the matter until the government can find national roaming terms it feels are appropriate too.
Read the full report here.