Access to high-quality mobile phone services is essential. As well as helping people to interact it is also key for the economy and public services. Mobile connectivity needs to improve and the mobile market should be fairer and more competitive.
Unfortunately, many people in rural areas still have little or no coverage and there are patches in our cities where coverage is not comprehensive. The cross-party British Infrastructure Group of MPs has found little evidence to suggest that the mobile sector will meet its licence conditions of 90 per cent coverage for voice and text by 2017.
During the last Parliament, the Coalition Government failed to improve mobile connectivity. The current government’s Digital Economy Bill has suggested some improvements, but I am concerned that it will not do enough.
Ofcom is currently consulting on the release of new bandwidths for the mobile spectrum known as 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz, and the campaign Make the Air Fair is calling for a cap of 30 per cent spectrum ownership for any one network operator.
This band of spectrum is one of our most significant public assets. How it is auctioned and regulated are issues of critical importance to the economy, yet the government has failed to foster a competitive communications market. Licensing conditions for the spectrum auction must be ambitious and tough. These auctions should benefit everyone through better coverage and contribute to our digital economy, rather than simply raising revenue or providing benefit to the mobile network operators.