UK regulator Ofcom has imposed a 90 percent voice coverage obligation across the country's four mobile operators, with plans to look at the licence fees for 900MHz and 1800MHz bands.
The obligation must be met by the end of 2017 and follows an agreement signed in December between mobile operators and the UK government. Operators had been threatened with the prospect of sharing networks if they could not improve coverage.
Ofcom said it will now work on a consultation on what operators pay for the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum, following the completion of the 4G auction two years ago. Operators use the bands for 2G, 3G and some 4G services.
The UK government said the deal will cut the number of "not-spots" – areas where there is no mobile coverage – by two thirds. Operators will spend a total of £5 billion on improving their networks, with an obligation to offer full coverage to 2017 of geographical areas by 2017, up from 69 percent today.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “For far too long, too many parts of the UK have regularly suffered from poor mobile coverage leaving them unable to make calls or send texts. Now at last we have progress that will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves.
“The deal will also bring £5bn investment by the mobile networks into the UK’s infrastructure, which will help drive this Government’s long-term economic plan.”
The UK market is set for a considerable shake-up with BT in talks with EE to acquire the operator and Three owner Hutchison Whampoa set to create the UK's biggest player if negotiations with O2 are successful.