UK operators offer “poor” coverage to transport lines and rural areas, Ofcom finds

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UK residents can get an LTE signal from all four operators in only 40 percent of the country's landmass, Ofcom has said.

In its annual Connected Nations report, the regulator chided operators for offering a low availability of coverage across the country, although it noted the 40 percent coverage figure improved from only eight percent last year.

It found 72 percent of people can receive an LTE signal indoors from all four networks, up from 28 percent in 2015. O2 is under pressure to deliver mobile data services to 98 percent of UK premises by the end of next year, because of coverage obligations from the 2012 spectrum auction. Ofcom said it expected other operators to match that level of coverage.

Turning to voice, Ofcom found 34 percent of the UK's geography does not provide a signal from all four operators, which the regulator noted was an improvement on last year's 42 percent figure.

It said voice coverage will improve thanks to an agreement signed between operators and the UK government in February last year. By the end of 2017, all four UK operators must cover 90 percent of the UK with voice services.

Ofcom said it was exploring how regulation can improve the need for better coverage across the country. It urged network operators to explore connecting areas without premises such as remote location and transport lines, which it said suffered from poor signals.

Earlier this week, a government report said regulation needed to be relaxed and the likes of spectrum sharing encouraged to improve the country's mobile coverage and prepare it for 5G.

Steve Unger, Ofcom Group Director, said: “Mobile and broadband coverage continued to grow this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a good service. We think that is unacceptable.

“So we’re challenging mobile operators to go beyond built-up areas, and provide coverage across the UK’s countryside and transport networks. Today we’ve also provided technical advice to support the Government’s plans for universal, decent broadband.”