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Ofcom told to use 4G auctions to complete UK coverage

Bring voice if not data to the unconnected, says CCP

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Ofcom should look beyond revenue generation for the government and seek firm commitments to the extension of mobile coverage into today's "not-spots" when it holds the 4G spectrum auctions next year.

So says the Communications Consumer Panel, an advisory board founded by the comms watchdog but independent of it.

The CCP argues that 3m Britons still don't have any mobile coverage for voice, let alone 2.5G or 3G connections for data. Ofcom should therefore favour 4G bidders who agree to connect these folk, it said today.

Bob Warner, the CCP's chair, said: "We have a unique opportunity to resolve the persistent problem of inadequate mobile coverage. Most places that were mobile coverage not-spots ten years ago are still not-spots today.

"The spectrum auction presents perhaps the only chance we have in the next decade to improve coverage in the nations and for rural communities."

He said the watchdog should set coverge obligations on bidders to ensure all parts of the UK gain a minimum level of data connectivity. Other zones of iffy coverage, such as London's underground, should be connected too.

All good advice, but Ofcom is - alas - under no obligation to take it.

Since the watchdog's auction terms are likely to be the subject of a legal challenge from at least one carrier or another - the way the UK's mobile services have rolled out over time has left many axes to be sharpened along the way - provisions for giving all of the UK population coverage seem unlikely to play a part in the auction's outcome. ®

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