The Government has reached a deal with the four mobile networks to improve coverage across the UK, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said.
A binding agreement has been reached with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to tackle poor signal issues in so-called partial not-spots, a spokesman said.
These are areas that have coverage from some but not all of the four networks. Depending on the network consumers are on, they may have no coverage in these areas.
The four networks have collectively agreed to a guaranteed £5 billion investment programme to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017, and guaranteed voice and text coverage from each operator across 90% of the UK geographic area by 2017, halving the areas currently blighted by patchy coverage as a result of partial not-spots.
Full coverage from all four mobile operators will increase from 69% to 85% of geographic areas by 2017, in a deal which will be enforceable by Ofcom.
No cash payments will be made by Government to the mobile networks as part of the agreement, the spokesman said.
The deal will also result in cutting total not-spots where there is currently no mobile coverage by two-thirds. This will support the Government’s existing £150 million programme to take mobile coverage to the areas of the UK that have no coverage at all.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am pleased to have secured a legally binding deal with the four mobile networks. Too many parts of the UK regularly suffer from poor mobile coverage leaving them unable to make calls or send texts.
“Government and businesses have been clear about the importance of mobile connectivity, and improved coverage, so this legally binding agreement will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves.
“The £5 billion investment from the mobile networks in the UK’s infrastructure will help drive this Government’s long-term economic plan.”
The spokesman said the Government would bring the agreement to the attention of Ofcom in the context of their work to revise Annual Licence Fees – the subscription fee mobile networks pay Government.
The Government also intends to reform the “outdated and ineffective” Electronic Communications Code to make it easier for the whole communications sector to bring in new mobile and broadband services, and increase choice for consumers, and the Government is allowing many of its freehold buildings to be used as sites for mobile infrastructure – potentially opening up hundreds of sites to boost mobile coverage, including areas where it has been previously difficult to roll out network coverage.
A Vodafone UK spokesman said: “We support the Government’s objective of delivering better coverage to rural areas including partial not-spots. This is why Vodafone is already spending £1 billion on our network and services in the UK this year alone and will continue to spend a similar amount next year as well.
“The voluntary industry commitment we have agreed with the Government today will deliver 90% of the UK’s land mass with voice services and a major improvement in mobile internet coverage as well. It is a great result for UK consumers and businesses and it will make the UK a leader across Europe in terms of the reach of mobile coverage.”
Olaf Swantee, who is CEO of EE, said: ” EE is focused on bringing the best voice and data service to its customers across the UK, and only last week announced 1,500 unconnected villages will soon benefit from EE coverage.
“This agreement ensures that our customers are able to stay connected in even more places up and down the country.”