UK government to make mobile operators share towers to boost signal in rural areas

By Rich Edmonds on 23 Jun 2014 09:12 am EDT

UK mobile operators could be made to share networks in rural areas where signal is weak, under plans to provide better services to consumers from all network operators. Ministers have put forward the plan to prevent situations where only one or two major operators are available in certain parts of the country, providing consumers with more choice as to who they wish to hold a contract with. This is before the UK (and EU in general) look at 5G in years to come.

It's no secret that the UK suffers from blackspots dotted throughout the country. The idea is to allow consumers to switch between companies, regardless as to where they're located, much like how international roaming is achieved while abroad. Affected mobile operators have stated this would remove the incentive they have to construct new masts in areas to improve signal, noting how new equipment would be decided against if it's to be shared with competitors.

Reading through the BBC report, one has to wonder why the UK government can't shake the industry up so masts and infrastructure is managed by a separate company and have network operators rent access, much like how Network Rail operates the country's vast railway network. This would not only solve the competition issue with the construction of new masts, but also bring companies down to a level playing field, focusing more on service, plans, deals and other bonuses to attract custom.

Source: BBC

Reader comments

UK government to make mobile operators share towers to boost signal in rural areas


I personally don't know if I agree with this idea.

It doesn't give much incentive for the companies to improve their towers and make faster speeds if the competitors will just be sharing that anyway.

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I absolutely agree. I travel around a lot and the reception is appalling in some areas - I'm sure the people who live in these blackspots don't get a discount even though they get virtually no reception. It's about time they sorted it out.

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I agree. This definitely is an incentive killer. It's like if I bought a car in my neighborhood and became the only one with a motorized vehicle then was forced to share my car with everyone simply because they don't have one and I do.

One might argue that the inconvenience of sharing would be incentive enough for others to look to buy a car their selves. However, that's not how it works in the cell tower business. Businesses can upgrade their towers and lease their usage to others to make money and help pay for newer and more improved technology. This mandate can remove all willingness to actually make improvements.

Of course, the next thing you'll see is a mandate to improve their infrastructure. The cost may be spread out, but then things aren't being done to better the business and thus the customers. The customers are the only beneficiary. Business is supposed to be mutually beneficial. This is definitely not that.

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I guess it depends of if they're talking about sharing the transmitters, or just making the tower structure available to other carriers to install their transmitters.

The former stifles competition by disincentivizing expansion, while the latter promotes it by preventing monopolies.

Yah, the government to the rescue... smh

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The operators already share access, and have management companies running their networks. All the planning occurs within the operators however - decisions on where to put new "masts" and the such.
This isn't really news to be honest, as they're already doing it in some fashion... but we can all use improvements

The opposite could be true, build a tower and have the competition rent it instead of building their own. As long as there is an incentive such as throttling back speeds to the rented portion.

The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us. Run while you still can

I use a sure signal from Vodafone because signal is crap in my area, go down the road a couple of miles its like another world

Same here, only on GiffGaff (02), 3.5G get's me Edge speeds, I struggle to stream a low quality internet radio station. Think I'll end up screaming when I switch to my z10 from my Nokia 808 :/

If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted, I wish I had a puppy.

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Yup, when I compare Lithuania to UK, I find it confusing, that such rich country is so under developed in terms of communication speeds and availability

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Agree. I was working in a village 15 miles out of central London and my phone was rendered useless, no reception whatsoever all day - ridiculous!

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Oh dear god... If our mobile phone services worked like our railways we would all be feked. Better to keep networks competing in terms of coverage I think, at least things get fixed fairly quickly now, imagine the beurocratic nightmare fault reporting would be if the network infrastructure was shared and externally managed.

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I don't like this at all. Companies should provide the services they wish to provide. Consumers should make choices based on their available options. Cell phones are nice to have but not a fundamental human right that necessitates government intervention in the free market. If you choose to live in one of those areas, there are pros and cons - with one of the cons being a limited or non-existent service level. This development is a significant disincentive to any company. If you're the first into an area, or the first in an area to provide upgraded service, you should expect that to give you a competitive advantage. Depending on how it rolls out, this sounds like the less ambitious companies will be able to ride the coattails of the competition without fear of losing market share. Even charging a per capita tower use fee to the ones who have not chosen to improve coverage only levels the playing field by making it unfair for everyone... now the laggards are paying someone else to provide a service they haven't planned or budgeted for. I'm no defender of big business or cell companies in particular but on principle, this stinks. As much as I don't love my cell phone plan, or company, and think I pay too much for it, it's not an excuse to punish. I'm using it by choice and am free to walk away. I'm not a fan of politicians meddling with market forces and corporate strategies just so they can win votes.

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I am with vodafone because I get a great reception at home but unfortunately I don't sit around at home all day! I have to travel around for work and get no reception at all in some areas - you may expect that in a third world country but not the south east of needs to be sorted!!

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A lot of people don't choose where they live tho. If people had the choice to truly live where and how they want, then people probably wouldn't be living in rural areas with no service. So now that you live in an area where you don't get strong signal service means you shouldn't have a phone? That's not fair to say. If a school was in a rural area, don't you think they deserve the same education as a school in a rich area. So if the government doesn't govern the country, nothing changes for the better. What incentive does the carrier have to put up more masts in rural areas for better signal, probably none, doesn't mean ppl in those areas don't deserve the same quality of life.

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In mother Russia, governments tell businesses how to business. Ahoy comrads, my mate gets good signal now.

Posted from my phone no one cares about on a network no one cares about.

No offense, I was just gonna reply to another comment using "the communism card", the red one in soccer terms. Ouch. Now you've done it for me. ;-)

This is government do-gooders messing with market forces, I believe, this is no good from a long-term perspective, but might be beneficial short term for a particular individual that gets reception that way.

Not a fan of government going overboard with regulations, nor of a by-stander gov't that does nothing when obvious abuse of market dominance or injustice happens.
Double-edged sword.

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We live in a black spot so looking forward to this to see if I can get reception at home. I can receive a text if I walk up the garden, and leave it on my shed roof for a bit!

Luckily, we are part of the B4RN (rural broadband network) so at least have good wifi so looking forward to EE bringing wifi calling out.


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