Posted 29 August 2012
Mobile phone coverage in peril
A George Osborne-led plan that aims to deliver full mobile phone coverage, including voice and 3G, to rural areas may be in peril after Three announced that it is considering backing out of the £150 million project.
Three, which counts some eight million UK residents as its customers, said it has concerns over using the masts sponsored by Osborne’s mobile infrastructure project for its equipment because it fears it will not have enough of the mobile spectrum to bring good coverage to rural inhabitants, millions of whom have little or no service.
The network, which is owned by Hong Kong’s Hutchinson Whampoa, believes the structure of the forthcoming 4G auction will favour the other three major UK networks - O2, Vodafone, and Everything Everywhere. Three wants a greater share of the low-frequency spectrum, which the likes of O2 and Vodafone received in earlier government allocations. Low-frequency airwaves, which can send signals further and require fewer masts, would help Three offer better service in rural areas. Without it, the network’s service would work indoors but would be limited beyond that.
The government had hoped to assign contracts for the building of the masts this month, targeting an early 2013 start date to begin rolling out services. But Three’s announcement that it will not make a decision about being a part of the project until after the end of the controversial 4G auction next year could put a damper on the Chancellor’s ambitions.