MPs want mobile phone network roaming in the UK as signal coverage is "unacceptable"

Rebecca Smith
Nope, still no signal...
Nope, still no signal... (Source: Getty)

You might have suspected it; a new report from a group of backbench MPs has confirmed it. Britain's mobile phone users are suffering from an "unacceptable" level of signal coverage.

That's despite billions of pounds being spent to improve the network. The British Infrastructure Group (BIG) of cross-party MPs said that British mobile phone signal is so poor that foreign visitors often enjoy better coverage than local people as they aren't tied to a particular provider and can therefore use the strongest signal.

Group chairman Grant Schapps said: "It is unacceptable that areas in Britain continue to have such poor mobile connectivity, and that overseas visitors can expect better mobile coverage than Britons stuck with a single provider.

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"The time for excuses from the mobile sector is over. The government must make a better call for Britain and bring national mobile coverage policy into the 21st century," he added.

The group suggests that phone companies should allow customers to roam between networks in areas of the UK where they struggle to get reception.

In 2014, the then-government agreed to a £5bn investment deal with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). The agreement pledged to give mobile coverage to 90 per cent of the UK's geographic area by December 2017. But the report says mobile coverage hasn't significantly improved since then and there are at least 525 areas that suffer from either poor network coverage or simply none at all.

Read more: Small firms would lose £12k a day without mobile phone access

Around 17 million mobile phone owners have poor reception at home and that 90 per cent by 2017 plan doesn't look as if it's going to be met.

Some of the BIG's recommendations:

  • Change the law to allow domestic roaming in the UK
  • Make it cheaper for customers to switch provider
  • Identify the worst phone networks

A department for culture, media and sport spokesman said:

We know how frustrating poor mobile phone coverage can be, which is why we made it a legal requirement for each of the mobile network operators to provide coverage to at least 90 per cent of the UK by the end of the year.

We are taking further action through the Digital Economy Bill currently going through parliament, which will give the regulator Ofcom the power to issue hefty fines to mobile phone companies who fail to deliver improvements.

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