By Dennis Jones
It’s a tale as old as time – well as old as the rollout of 4G. For some time now, mobile subscribers in the U.K. have been miffed about the poor quality of their cellular coverage. And now, the release of an explosive new study has given that story new life, while igniting cries for industry reform.
In question is a government-appointed OpenSignal study which reveals that 4G networks in the U.K. rank a staggering 54th in the world when it comes to coverage. Looking through the numbers, the study demonstrates that the U.K. is incurring a digital deficit not only against peer nations, like communications technologies powerhouses, South Korea and Japan, who rank number one and two respectively, but also against non-peer countries like Albania and Romania.
Critics are pouncing on the results of the study, which show particularly spotty service in roads and railways, and they’re demanding government action. One of the investigation leaders is Lord Andrew Adonis, who is calling for fewer dead spots on next-gen networks, as he told the BBC: “The government has been putting more investment and obligation requirements on the mobile operators but we think that needs to be taken further.”
Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the U.K. communications industry, has been caught in the critics’ crosshairs. And in turn, the regulator is disputing the validity of the study, while endorsing the general conclusion that the U.K. must attain universal coverage.
So what’s to be done? It appears that the controversial study is raising more problems than solutions and that relevant industry stakeholders are placing more faith in a future 5G deployment (possibly a decade off) than considering cost-effective alternatives, like premium Wi-Fi.