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Details surface on how the UK government is looking to address weak 2G signal issues

The UK government still wishes to address problems with cellphone coverage across the UK, and details on how it wants carriers to do this have been shared today. In certain areas of the country, consumers find themselves with little to no connectivity, and while National Roaming has been touched on numerous times, it was rejected by major operators. The government has come up with some other ideas.

The networks have thus far failed to provide a viable solution, which led to threats of new legislation being forwarded by the government to ensure the public receive a stable service. So just what has the government proposed?

  • National roaming - phones would use another network when theirs was unavailable, similar to how roaming works when abroad
  • Infrastructure sharing - mobile networks would be able to put transmitters on each other's masts
  • Reforming virtual networks - agreements that companies such as Tesco and Virgin currently have with single operators would be extended to all four networks
  • Coverage obligation - obliging the networks to cover a certain percentage of the UK - and leaving them to decide how to do it

It's interesting to note that the government is only tackling 2G connectivity for the time being, though both 3G and even 4G can prove to be a sketchy experience. The government has given the industry, businesses and the public until November 26 to respond to the above proposals.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has not only received complaints from networks that such measures would drastically reduce the incentive to invest in national infrastructure, but Home Secretary Theresa May has also noted that enabling roaming between carriers would hamper efforts to effectively track criminals and terrorists.

A report published by Open Signal looks at how strong (or weak) available signal coverage is up and down the UK. There are some interesting findings:

  • 3G and 4G coverage is strongest in London, weakest in Wales
  • Three had the best 3G nationwide coverage while Vodafone came out at rock bottom
  • Vodafone offered the fastest 4G speeds, Three the slowest and had the worst coverage, while EE had the best 4G coverage

It's clear networks have some way to go until the UK has stable mobile coverage so everyone can make calls, send SMS messages and access the web. Plans as to how the companies will go about doing this is what the UK government hoped the carriers would come up with. As noted above, the government is giving the industry until November 26 to respond to the proposals.

Source: BBC

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.

28 Comments
  • In Seoul they have WiFi post in the streets. Something uk should do
  • Seoul is a city, this is pertaining to rural areas that have poor signals and very few lampposts.
  • The mobile operators don't want to invest more in there networks, my 'local' mast went down couple of years back the Orange customer service rep told me it was borderline as to if it would be repaired. In many areas all the networks have poor to non exsistant signals, so roaming will achieve only a small improvement, The best results would be for government to make greater coverage a condition of liscence. 
  • If you lived where I live you would definitely see an immigration issue, especially those not working. Same goes for born nationals on the dole not trying to get a job. I have no issue with immigrants who work. The trouble is whenever this I brought up you're automatically branded a racist, which in my case certainly isn't true. There are many things in the UK messed up. This is just one part of it. Back on topic. Coverage in the UK is pretty dire in a lot of places. Very rare I get a good reliable signal across town. Needs to be improved drastically.
  • Agreed!
  • Thankyou, seems I touched a raw nerve here and my guess is that most of them are pro-EU and don't see an immigration issue. As for the NHS they do a fantastic job given how pushed the system is. Back on topic agreed, even where I live the signal can be dire in places. Mostly indoors is a problem so anything to help boost the signal mobile signals is welcome.
  • You're position is one of bigotry. If you said "I have trouble with PEOPLE that don't work", you're in a better spot. By limiting only to immigrants you show your bias and prejudice. That's the issue.
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  • Sharing
  • and here in India majority are on 2g. 3g is there but sometimes doesn't work good especially vodafone.
  • I didn't expect to hear that most people in India were on LTE, but I might have expected most to be on HSPA at least. Is 2G service cheaper for the consumer? Our do most people have 2G-only devices?
  • 2G is considerably cheaper. But people in urban areas have shifted to 3g. I mean most of them. LTE is yet to be launched here. It will be soon though by reliance(carrier). And rarely any phones are non-3g these days i think.
  • TMO should also listen. Lol. Thats all I get in my areas, if im lucky.
  • Roaming won't work, the only sensible solution would be shared masts.
  • Roaming does work. Aslong the carriers come to an agreement. Use there equipement lease it out. cheaper then installing new equipment. Since the bandwith they aren't using anywayz. Both companys porfit
  • The networks already share masts. We now have the situation where 4g is slowing down and expected to be slower than 3g by next year. At work nowadays I strugle to get a signal on Orange, we have a roof top ariel to pick up O2 as that is non exsisitant indoors, not sure on Vodaphone. A few years back Orange and O2 where good signals, Vodaphone was the only one that didn't work.
  • 2G? 2G? They're worried about expanding 2G coverage and cooperation?! Why not encourage expanding 3G at least, since VoLTE makes everything less than LTE obsolete. I get that you'll have legacy areas that are lowly populated and that will always be the last to get new technology. But 2G? Are 2G-only handsets still even being sold in the UK? I think even most feature phones are HSPA these days.
  • Well this is similar what they do in Australia already. The reason why its only 2G service is the underlining technology for all other services 3g, 4g. If you get 2G coverage then you will get proper coverage for the rest especially 4G. 4G in basic is dual frequency of 2G wavelength.  I'm really surprise thou to hear that 2G tech. is lacking coverage and why shared tower isn't a thing over in the UK. Australia is a bigger country yet we have 99% coverage. Most of that is believe top of my head 2G spectrum. This is step in the right direction
  • "mobile networks would be able to put transmitters on each other's masts." Most of this sentence would be worded differently in Canada. It would be something like: "carriers would be able to put cell sites on each other's towers." :-)
  • Infrastructure sharing? Really? That's completely unfair commie BS right there, where does the companies investment in towers go then? Nowhere. Now companies are going to be even less obligated to build towers as it no longer helps their business and is now a waste of money... So glad to be an American...
  • Well this is similar what they do in Australia already. The reason why its only 2G service is the underlining technology for all other services 3g, 4g. If you get 2G coverage then you will get proper coverage for the rest especially 4G. 4G in basic is dual frequency of 2G wavelength.  I'm really surprise thou to hear that 2G tech. is lacking coverage and why shared tower isn't a thing over in the UK. Australia is a bigger country yet we have 99% coverage. Most of that is believe top of my head 2G spectrum. This is step in the right direction
  • In Chile in Santiago the coverage in 2G-3G is good some are better than others by town, now since we adopted the European thing of take off superfluous stations coverage and services been falling down 4G at least in movistar Chile is good their 3G is not that great but in the three companies , in regions have good coverage movistar and in the central valley zone entel and movistar is good Claro Chile is terrible in regions (states) My last vacations seen how bad is their 3G in Valparaiso region on my home once my company is good other don't have anymore 2G coverage inside home but 3G yes odd enough
  • This problem will just have to go on the list entitled "stuff which needs sorting out in the UK" The industry regulator thinks increasing number of transmitters is better idea, but UK planning regs stall this plan often. I thought that this was a good idea, until I listened to an explanation by the regulatory body.