MPs have written to Ofcom calling on the regulator to ensure mobile operators fulfil their obligations to boost 4G coverage in rural areas.
The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on rural business welcomed Ofcom’s commitments for 90 per cent geographic coverage by all four networks across the UK.
But it raised concerns about how this will be monitored, as networks are not obliged to report on mast completions until the end of the review process in 2024.
As part of the commitment, Ofcom agreed to lower costs for mobile operators on the upcoming spectrum auction. But MPs said operators have historically been reluctant to build masts in rural areas due to the higher costs involved.
Julian Sturdy MP, chair of the APPG, said: “While Ofcom’s initial announcement truly has the potential to revolutionise mobile coverage across the countryside, it will fall by the wayside if progress is not monitored on a regular basis.
“We need annual reporting to ensure that mobile operators are holding their promises to the public on delivering a 4G network which works for people wherever they live.”
A report published last month by campaign group Rural England said 4G could not be accessed on any of the four networks inside 58 per cent of rural premises last year.
Mark Bridgeman, deputy president of the Country Land and Business Association, said: “Increasing 4G coverage will unlock the potential of rural businesses and the countryside and we cannot let this opportunity slip owing to lax oversight.
“Given mobile operators’ previous reluctance to invest in rural areas, annual reporting on progress should be compulsory.”