Britain’s 4G mobile phone coverage cannot match that of such world-beating countries such as… Albania, Panama, Peru and er, Romania, where users crossing a canal or trekking through the mountains can connect in less than half the time it takes a UK citizen, a government infrastructure watchdog has found.
The National Infrastructure Commission said today that the UK is being held back by pitiable mobile phone connectivity, as it called for an end to “digital deserts” in places that should have adequate signals such as rail routes, roads and city centres.
Countries including the US and Japan already have data volumes four to five higher than the UK, the report found.
Chaired by Andrew Adonis, the crossbench peer and former Labour minister, the commission said the government has to now make sure that the next generation of 5G spectrum is not as ramshakle as the shambles which is 4G.
“Britain is 54th in the world for 4G coverage, and the typical user can only access 4G barely half the time,” Adonis said. “Our 4G network is worse than Romania and Albania, Panama and Peru. Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts and even our city centres are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible.
“That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce.”
In a list of recommendations, it argued there should be a new dedicated cabinet minister in charge of the UK’s digital future, ensuring mobile connectivity is competitive with the rest of the world.
Responding to the report Marc Waters, managing director of Hewlett Packard Enterprise for the UK and Ireland, said: "We welcome today's report and the emphasis placed on the importance of securing the UK’s readiness for 5G. Technology is evolving rapidly and is disrupting every industry. With workforces increasingly becoming more mobile and more and more devices being connected, it's essential that we have a robust networking infrastructure that can cope with the demands placed on it. A strong infrastructure will also put the U.K in a good position to successfully navigate the industrial revolution 4.0."
Konstantinos Stavropoulos, technical marketing lead at Amdocs said: “Although the accuracy of this study and the low UK ranking are open to debate, few would argue against the need to improve 4G availability across the country. This is important for mobile users today and shortly, but also as 4G is expected to coexist with 5G for many years after 5G is launched.
“5G promises to change the way we live and to impact the economy through transforming a variety of industries: from transport, logistics, manufacturing and automotive to health, energy, media and entertainment. While 5G is not an end in itself and its rollout must be business case driven, the success of 5G will require a different approach compared with previous mobile network deployments. Governments, including the UK government, will play a key role in the 5G success.”