Martin Whitfield MP has joined a cross-party group of colleagues who have written to the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Wright MP, to ask the Government to make a requirement that network operators enable roaming between providers to improve mobile coverage in rural areas.

In some parts of the country, mainly in rural areas, patchy, intermittent coverage means that many people have limited or no access to mobile coverage. The co-signatories of the letter supported the Government’s Strategic Priorities for Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, which calls on the authority to fully consider the costs and benefits of roaming in rural areas.

Whilst Ofcom has agreed that ‘co-operations of operators’ would improve mobile coverage, the MPs are urging the Secretary of State to take it one step further and make it a requirement of network providers to deliver it.

The Government has pledged to ensure that there is mobile coverage to 95% of the UK by 2022 but this will still leave many areas without a workable signal.

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“A lack of co-ordination between the network providers has left many rural areas, including parts of East Lothian, covered by some but not all the networks.

“This is hampering economic, educational and leisure opportunities for residents in rural areas and remains a significant brake on growth for the local, regional and national economy.

“The introduction of roaming services between networks will vastly increase the operational coverage for people in places like East Lothian.”

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport4th Floor, 100 Parliament Street

London SW1A 2BQ

29th March 2019

Mobile Phone Roaming in Rural Areas

A lack of coordination between the network providers has left many rural areas covered by some but not all of the networks. This is hampering economic, educational and leisure opportunities for residents in rural areas and remains a significant brake on growth for the local, regional and national economy. The introduction of roaming between networks will vastly increase the operational coverage for many of our constituents.

The DCMS consultation on the Statement of Strategic Priorities for telecommunications, the management of radio spectrum and postal services calls on Ofcom to fully consider the costs and benefits of roaming in rural areas. We the cosignatories of this letter are members representing rural constituencies and we fully agree with item 31 on page 19:

“Roaming in rural areas also has the potential to improve consumer choice and address partial not-spots (where one or more operators are present, but all four are not). Ofcom should fully consider the costs and benefits of achieving this outcome, and maintain the option of requiring roaming by including appropriate provisions when granting rights of use for spectrum.”

Ofcom’s position on this in their document, Further options for improving mobile coverage, agrees that it would improve coverage and that the surest way to deliver this is with the “co-operation of operators”.

Please could you do all that you can to ensure that effective roaming in rural areas is made a requirement of the network providers.