UK's "national roaming" plans could hinder police work, claims GSMA

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Plans for "national roaming" across the UK could help criminals, is too expensive and complex to implement, the GSMA has said.

The trade body attacked proposals by the British Government, which were unveiled earlier this month and aim to improve coverage across the country.

The GSMA said there are better ways of dealing with partial not-spots than enforcing national roaming. It said the plans would damage the country's GDP, citing research from Capital Economics which said capital expenditure could be hit by up to £440 million each year.

It added the plans could also slow down the rollout of 4G across the country. The UK was a relative latecomer to LTE but GSMA said its implementation could be delayed by up to two years, as operators move spending onto setting up national roaming.

The GSMA said a better option would be to rethink the annual spectrum charges to allow more money to be spent on improving network infrastructure.

It also suggested loosening access to land to allow networks to deploy more masts and base stations.

Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA, commented: "The GSMA believes there are alternative solutions for tackling the issue of partial not-spots in the UK outside of mandated national roaming, which is technically complex, expensive and would impede law enforcement activities. Most importantly, as such a scheme is likely to result in issues making, receiving and maintaining calls, we need to look at other ways of ensuring that the consumer experience is continually enhanced."

He added: "We believe the solution to tackling partial not-spots is through continued investment in our mobile networks, enabled by a favourable regulatory environment."

The GSMA has joined UK operators in criticising the plans, which Vodafone said earlier this month were messy and unworkable. Among the other proposals the Government made were promoting dual-SIM handsets or infrastructure sharing, which already exists in the UK.

This morning EE also hit out at the plans, claiming national roaming would damage the economy and harm investment in the mobile sector.

A spokesperson said: "EE’s consultation response reflects our longstanding view that while we support the ambition to improve rural coverage, the Government‘s proposal for national roaming is a flawed concept.

"Instead, together with the other major UK network operators, we will propose a solution that helps solve the problem of rural coverage, without any of the technical, economic and competitive barriers of national roaming.

"If agreed by Government, the joint proposal can be implemented quickly and for less cost, a win-win for the British public.”

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