Mobile networks dismiss UK government's 'national roaming' plan

While those in larger towns and cities generally enjoy decent mobile network coverage, it can often be hard to find a signal in more sparsely populated areas. In many rural parts, just one or two operators have cell towers and masts installed, leaving those on other networks out of luck. 

Despite its relatively small size, there are many parts of the United Kingdom that still suffer from limited network coverage, and the UK government is exploring ways to improve this as mobile usage continues to grow. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) - which is responsible for overseeing communications industries in the UK - believes that one option would be to implement a 'national roaming' scheme, but mobile operators have been quick to dismiss the idea as unfeasible. 

Under the proposal, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said that operators should allow users to switch to rival networks when they cannot get a signal from their own carrier, in much the same way that they would while travelling abroad. But the UK's Mobile Operator Association (MOA) - representing major networks EE, Three, Vodafone and O2 - said that the plans were 'far-fetched and unworkable', according to V3

"National roaming isn't the silver bullet that is being suggested," the MOA said in a statement. "It will take years to implement and will not address the problem of notspots [areas with limited or zero network coverage]. National roaming would be a disincentive to build more infrastructure. And it is technically difficult and expensive to set up national roaming, and customers would face more dropped calls." 

The organisation instead believes that the government needs to do more to support network operators to expand their infrastructure into rural areas. The government has already dedicated £150m to this, and the DCMS has said it is considering further support. 

According to the MOA, carriers are "investing £3bn in improving their UK networks this year. 4G will also improve mobile broadband coverage in rural areas." It also said that "there is good mobile coverage across the UK, reaching 99 percent of the population. And UK consumers enjoy one of the cheapest telecoms pricing environments in the EU." 

While carriers remain resistant to the idea of the 'national roaming' plan, one mobile industry source told BBC News that the government could still force them to implement the proposal under current legislation. 

Source: V3 | GSM transmitter image via Shutterstock

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This piece of news in plain words:
The government was trying to do something good but that will not bring as much revenue to the carriers. The MOA issued a strong oppose therefore. They said that instead of this good clever thing, the government should really drop big money into their pockets to achive the same goal. After hearing this, DCIM felt this alternative proposal really worth to be taken into consideration.

The organisation instead believes that the government needs to do more to support network operators to expand their infrastructure into rural areas. The government has already dedicated £150m to this.

EE, Vodaphone and O2 made £14.1 billion in profit in the UK in 2013. They do not need £150m from the Government and certainly not more to expand their networks.

That's a cop out. It already happens on this planet with other providers. I said in the other thread, Optus and Vodafone in Australia do it, and it works.

The lack of incentive to upgrade their networks mean this would be a non-starter. There would need to be an organisation responsible for the network infrastructure like Openreach are for telephone connections to make it viable, at least this way there would be more competition and prices could go down.

This would be a race to the bottom. Carriers would no longer need to worry about infastructure because guess what oh yeah someone else will pick up the tab. They would just need to worry about been the cheapest and guess what let someone else sort the infrastructure out.

ChuckFinley said,
This would be a race to the bottom. Carriers would no longer need to worry about infastructure because guess what oh yeah someone else will pick up the tab. They would just need to worry about been the cheapest and guess what let someone else sort the infrastructure out.

I find it hard to believe their interest in upgrading their infrastructure would diminish as much as they cry about here. It's not like if there are multiple carriers available you get to pick the best one to roam on. You're still stuck on your carrier unless they don't have service somewhere, so if someone else has better infrastructure, they're going to get customers. For those in less-covered places, they're still likely to buy phones with carriers that actually are out by them even if they can get other carriers' phones and now get service so if those other carriers want those customers, they're still going to have to upgrade their infrastructure.

MOA's just throwing whatever they can at it because it'll be a loss in revenue from roaming charges. That's all. Nothing else will change much.

I agree with the networks on this one. While it sounds like a good plan, why bother updating your infrastructure if you can simply force your customers to use someone else's?

You make it so that carriers pay the operator of the roaming tower for usage, while regulations ensure that this rate remains reasonable. So carriers with more towers in remote regions get a secondary stream of revenue, and incentive for carriers to hold more remote towers. In remote villages, there's no incentive right now for carriers to add a tower if another carrier is already there - there just aren't enough subscribers to make it worth it. Under this plan, however, a single tower is shared, its owner is fairly compensated, and consumers gain competition.

Under a plan like that, a new carrier entrant could theoretically operate without owning any cell infrastructure at all, fostering competition while compensating the holders of the network.

Personally, I think that the government should have decoupled cell networks and carriers a long time ago. Cell company monopolies are an issue in almost every country.

then make them do it why should they all hold the monopoly on the networks its dangerous and could save life look at accidents caused outside network area those vital Min could save a life

Even if you are outside of your network area, you can still call emergency services, so that's not a relevant point.

If you are somewhere where your network doesn't have reception but another does, you get Emergency Calls Only. If no networks have any signal, you'll be told there is no reception and you can't even make 999 calls.

netty2014 said,
then make them do it why should they all hold the monopoly on the networks its dangerous and could save life look at accidents caused outside network area those vital Min could save a life

Just wow.