Networks Could be Forced to Offer Better Rural Coverage if They Want to Buy 700 Mhz Spectrum

By Tom Pritchard on at

Ofcom's working hard to sort out the 5G spectrum auctions, which is no doubt easier after the courts shot down EE and Three's respective lawsuits about how unfair the whole thing is. It's announced some new plans today, and with them come rules that obligate the networks to offer better rural coverage if they want in on the 700 MHz spectrum.

The 700 Mhz range was previously used by digital terrestrial television services like Freeview, but will be made available to phone networks after that portion of the spectrum was cleared and DTT shifted down to the 470-690MHz band. Because there's a lot of range involved with 700 MHz, Ofcom believes it offers an "important opportunity" to boost wireless coverage in rural areas.

The regulator has written to the four main networks informing of the plans, proposing that any successful bids will include an obligation to deliver "good quality indoor coverage" to 60 per cent of the 200,000 homes that are predicted to lack that coverage by the time next year's auction rolls around. Networks would also have to deliver "good" data and voice services for 92 per cent of the UK landmass, with England and Northern Ireland requiring at least 92 per cent coverage, Wales and Scotland will require 83 per cent and 75 per cent respectively.

This wouldn't be the first time Ofcom has told the networks they need to offer better coverage in rural areas. Back in 2014 the big four promised to invest £5 billion to ensure at least 90 per cent of the UK's landmass had 2G voice services by the end of 2017. That agreement was made so that the networks would avoid the threat of "national roaming" that would force them to share their respective networks in signal blackspots. O2 was also made to promise to offer 4G to at least 98 per cent of the UK population by the end of last year when it purchased parts of the 800 MHz spectrum. [TechRadar Pro]

More Networks Posts: