Ofcom to keep beady eye on Vodafone, only UK operator to have failed to reach target
Vodafone is the only UK operator not to have reached Ofcom's 3G coverage obligations in the UK. Vodafone has 88.6% coverage of the UK with its 3G services, while all the other major networks have 90% coverage, as required by Ofcom.
When 3G mobile spectrum licences were awarded in 2000, they included an obligation to roll out services to 80% of the UK by population. However, in 2010 the Government directed Ofcom to increase this obligation further, requiring operators to cover 90% of where the UK population lives.
EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone agreed to reach this new coverage obligation by a deadline of 30 June 2013.
Once this deadline had passed, Ofcom conducted an assessment of each operator's compliance with the new coverage obligation. The outcome of this reveals that the mobile phone operators – EE, Three and O2 – have successfully met this obligation.
However, Vodafone failed to meet the obligation, falling 1.4% short of the 90% coverage requirement.
Following discussions with Ofcom, Vodafone has put in place a plan to bring itself into compliance with the 3G coverage obligation by the end of 2013. This will involve rolling out 3G to more mobile masts than Vodafone had originally estimated as being necessary. Ofcom has reviewed this plan, and believes it to be credible, but will closely monitor Vodafone's implementation of the plan.
Ofcom commented: 'Ofcom is satisfied that Vodafone's plan is credible. We have therefore decided not to take enforcement action now and will instead assess Vodafone's compliance in January 2014. We will decide whether to take any further action at that time.'
In light of Vodafone's compliance plans, Ofcom has decided not to take any enforcement action at this stage. It will assess Vodafone's compliance in January 2014 and depending on the position at that time, the possibility of taking any further action will be considered.
Improving mobile coverage for consumers is a priority area for Ofcom. By 2017 at the latest, O2 is required to extend 4G coverage into indoor areas in which at least 98% of the UK population lives. This is expected to cover more than 99% of the UK population when outdoors. Other mobile operators have also indicated that they intend to match this coverage. This will help to extend mobile broadband coverage into many parts of the UK that are still underserved by 3G. Ofcom has also committed to publish data on mobile coverage and what factors can affect mobile reception. Such information is vital for consumers when choosing the best service for their needs. Finally, Ofcom will also be carrying out research to measure the performance of 3G and 4G mobile networks. This will assess the average mobile broadband speeds received by 3G and 4G customers. The research is designed to help consumers understand the performance benefits of 4G over 3G mobile services and assist them in making informed purchasing decisions. Ofcom expects to publish the results of this research in spring 2014.