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UK government may force networks to offer national roaming with new legislation

New legislation could be in the works to effectively force UK operators to offer roaming options for customers where signal is poor. The UK government continues to work with mobile carriers on a solution to address black spots and areas where signal is hard to come by. The plan is to offer said roaming support to make it possible to switch between networks to maintain service, something mobile operators previously rejected.

According to The Telegraph report, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid plans to introduce network roaming across Britain with new legislation if carriers do not comply. It's estimated that a million people suffer from unreliable network coverage, but it's not simply rural areas that are causing issues. Consumers have also reported black holes in cities and towns across the UK where signal coverage is simply not up to par, especially when compared against signal charts provided by network providers.

The Government is expected to launch a consultation on the reforms this week after the failure of the "big four" phone operators – Vodafone, O2, EE and Three – to reach a voluntary agreement with ministers on improving coverage in areas where reception is patchy. In these so-called "partial not-spots", signal is limited to one or two mobile networks. Customers who have contracts with networks that do not cover these zones cannot make calls or send text messages, even though other networks may be available.

It's believed that by sharing resources, mobile operators no longer have the incentive to invest in their own networks to compete against one another. Should carriers not come together with a viable solution, the government will likely force through legislation to kick-start reform. An announcement is planned for next week.

Source: Telegraph

Rich Edmonds
Rich Edmonds

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

27 Comments
  • Very good law. I hope other europeans countries apply this rules too.
  • Carriers should not only be forced to roam, in black spots, but ne forced to improve the networks with tangible, quantified goals, that can be checked. And BT should be forced to do likewise. They've eaten enough tax payers money yet rural estates still can't get fibre. UK infrastructure is a nonsense.
  • So which carrier is responsible to improve which parts of the "black spots" ? Or will the costs be moved over to the tax payer again and the State will own the Network and material there and will have to offer it for free according to this new law presented here
  • No, the cost should be moved over to all carriers as part of a renewed license. Taxpayers have been shortchanged enough. All carriers party in to a pot and a generic mast goes up. Carriers then lease space from the mast.
    I wouldn't nationalise as Cameron is a numpty! I'm just waiting to see how expensive the channel tunnel becomes, after they flog that off. They have no clue and I think leave the network to the carpets, but with heavier oversight. They charge us over the odds for a frankly lackluster service. We do not have to be fair with them. They have the capital. Same applies to Thames water. Etc etc.
  • No politics pls. But FYI, the taxpayer actually did very nicely recently selling 4G licenses. There is no tax paid out to cellular companies, they pay for the networks from your subscription money. If you were old enough, and can remember power black outs, bins piled up on the street and unions strangling the country you will realise why state control of anything apart from core depts like defence, health etc is bad idea. we remember the days when BT took 3 months to install a phone line. Our charges are miniscule. Without paying for the phone part, most people will be paying for 10-15 pounds a month for service many with 4G. Again if you were old enough you'd remember a time when calling your friend meant walking to a phonebox and feeding it with money. Our regulators have actually done a decent job of pushing down the cost of cellular. UK regulation is actually pretty decent for many services (like utilities) despite what you read in The Sun or The Mirror or whatever red top rag you read.
  • BT are rolling out nationwide fibre that will cover the ENTIRE UK. It cannot happen overnight and to complain about the UK infrastructure is idotic. We have the best mobile phone networks in the world along with some of the best internet in Europe. If you want to complain about BT, firstly you should know they are a PLC, not part of the government so their funding doesn't come from Tax payers.. The funding received for the fibre rollout does as it's a national rollout but they are doing they as efficiently as possible. In the USA some people can't even get basic internet whereas in the UK that is rarely an issue, the speeds may be slow but you can still get uncapped broadband packages in rural areas. http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/
  • You are right, essentially - though my German friends would disagree with you, as would my friends in the Netherlands. But I guess it depends on where you are in the world, and whether its a major city or not etc etc. And as for bt I'm not going to supply links, only say that they've been saying they'd update the copper, now change it to fibre, that they'd change the drop cables, and update, local exchangers etc. Ten years later and it's still rolling. Look up the fiasco on who will roll out broadband to rural areas. Bt took the majority tenders and read up on the investigation into it. I'd also say look at the legislation protecting bt, when it came over from national control. And bt receives government funds and grants. So it's a plc and heavily govt subsidised. It's not a simple plc in the way national rail is not simple. Talking about America - I hold dual nationality. I have a ranch in Texas - I've got a corporate set up there, and a flat in New York - com cast. Both are excellent, though the cost of Comcast is rather high, competitively. I agree its not uniform is broadband dispersal, though we're much much smaller. In the UK I have a home in London - bt fibre, all good, and an estate in Sussex - no bt or anything else. I ended up laying down a corporate pipe so I'm happy. My neighbouring homes are signed up to a conservative lobby group trying to get bt to pull it's finger out. I can afford the outlay, many can't. I'm not in the sticks by any stretch, though there is extensive land to my doorstep. I appreciate what you've said, and you do seem to know what you're talking about. However you're missing a facet of this issue. Bt is a dinosaur of a company and it has held our infrastructure back. Germany is far larger and they're forcing through rural infrastructure in a way that makes me feel sad. Our (the UK) infrastructure is poor. And I say this having owned mobile phones from the early eighties (showing my age there) and I have seen bt say the same thing for years. I'm a country alliance member, for transparency, so am on one side. Bt are lucky to have you on theirs, though they do not deserve you.
  • Thats like complaing you live in the UK and don't get enough sun. Presumably you chose the house you live in, as well as the country. You're clearly all riled up your country estate doesn't have broadband. Boo hoo. Some of us are riled up we are stuck in traffic jams. We all have a choice. My parents had a rural home and had to use oil as there was no gas. They knew it prior to moving in. Yes, you are on one side. BT aren't in business to serve you personally or the people lucky enough to have large houses in leafy country lanes. I sympathise, but your angst is misguided at BT. Likewise you may well not get 4G, hence why the regulator is taking this action. So you maybe able to get 4G or at least a better signal at some point. Apart from being all angry and entitled and hating a prime minister not really sure where your rant was aiming.   
  • Three
  • As competition isn't necessarily a bad thing, surely a good idea would be to make those problem areas Collaboration Zones. Solves the competition issue and the poor signal issue in one move.
  • So the bandwidths are auctioned off at ridiculously overinflated prices with the understanding that the networks build the infrastructure to support it, then the government decides once they've spent all of the money (mostly passed into the consumer) they have to share it with their competitors. Genius idea. Why in the name of Yoda almighty wasn't this stipulated from the beginning of the auction so that the costs would be transparent to both the consumer and the networks? This will fail both on legal and technical grounds.
  • Unfortunately you may be right. I just think the carriers should just get trod on and be forced to sort this mess out, let them save face, if needs be, and work on fixing this.
  • A better plan would be to decouple carriers and network providers (the owners of the cell towers themselves) completely. If the companies that build the towers can rent them to any carrier, there's an incentive for these companies to continually invest into their networks. The barrier to entry of a carrier becomes far lower and more competition can occur, with more types of service plans. ​ It also reduces redundancies, where there would no longer be a need to have one tower per carrier in areas where a single tower would suffice. ​ ​
  • Aye, I said that above and am glad someone else sees this as a way forward.
  • A bit like the rail operators and the rail infrastructure in the UK? That's been a roaring success!
  • This is a great idea in theory but we know nothing will ever come of it. It will just be another waste of taxpayers money through commity meetings, government think tanks and court/solicitors fees. I hate to be negative over the governments effectivness over the mobile and communications industry but look at the debacle over 4G. When they first introduced the idea it was to help those in rural areas to get a broadband connection. Then the mobile networks got involved and 4G is still really only available in large built up areas
  • How about the mobile operator A can charge mobile operator B if B's users roam on to A's mast, but A and B can't charge the user. The operators with the most masts then profit from those masts at the expense of operators with the least masts. Sure, they'll pass the costs onto users with increased monthly costs for all tarrifs, but you'll get much better coverage so it'll arguably be worth the cost, plus those with the most masts will see less expenditure on their users roaming, so they won't have to increase their tarrifs as much, meaning competition comes in to play... and as we all know, operators like to just increase their tarrif costs all the time for no reason anyway, so at least this way it'll feel like you're actually getting something for it!
  • What is this article being posted on windows central?
  • You see it's filed under general news...and it's a tech blog for god's sake...we ought to receive information from everything related to technology!!!
  • Why do you always see these types of complaints on news articles about the UK or other countries, yet Windows Central covers the minutae of the goings on from US carriers without too many complaints. This is a mobile-focussed tech site.  Most of us are here because of Windows Phone.  It wouldn't be much of a phone without a mobile network, so that is why these things are covered.  Would you rather they just didn't post any news unless it directly concerns Windows?
  • Is this article only visible to UK viewers?
  • No. Why should it? For example, a person planning moving to UK will find this article useful.
  • No lol, was the Microsoft Band articles only visible to America....
  • Love the idea (in theory) about de-coupling the core network from the carriers but at the risk of being cynical, the government has tried that with Network Rail and that hasn't worked out too well. Also, never underestimate the carrier's ability to gouge the customer for more money.
    They'll simply add a special tarrif that guarantees coverage in said "non-spots" and then when it becomes popular, make it a compulsory sur-charge.
  • This is great, that there are people who tries to cut cost of roaming! In our globalized environment - phone calls has never been this important.  Business is done all over the world and people travel as much as never before. In result no one wants to see their empty wallets. Roaming bills are just too MUCH and roaming price has to be decreased.  We believe in one intelligent app that adapts user calls, allowing to save up to 95% of all roaming calls.    
  • Tricky as different networks use different bands and frequencies. Your call may drop as you switch network.
  • Hello yeah about fucking time..!!