Ofcom today unveiled new rules to make operators improve mobile coverage as it vows to crack down on blackspots in rural areas.
While 66 per cent of the UK has good 4G coverage, too many rural areas are left with “patchy or unreliable” mobile reception, Ofcom’s Connected Nations report found.
Ofcom said complete 4G coverage in rural areas is just 41 per cent, with some remote parts of the country getting no coverage at all.
The regulator said it will attach binding coverage rules to its auction of two new spectrum bands.
The winning bidders will have to improve coverage for existing homes and offices, install at least 500 new mobile mast stations in rural areas and extend outdoor data coverage to at least 90 per cent of the UK, it said.
The auction is due to take place in late 2019 or early 2020, and the winning bidder will need to reach the coverage targets by 2023.
Ofcom spectrum director Philip Marnick said: “Mobile coverage has improved across the UK this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a signal. We’re particularly concerned about mobile reception in rural areas.
“As we release new airwaves for mobile, we’re planning rules that would extend good mobile coverage to where it’s needed. That will help ensure that rural communities have the kind of mobile coverage that people expect in towns and cities, reducing the digital divide.”
The report also revealed plans to allow different users to share spectrums in an effort to support wireless technology in industries such as logistics, mining and agriculture.
Ofcom said it will enable third parties to use airwaves that are licensed to mobile operators but are not being used by them. It said this would help local communities boost coverage.