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Getting rural areas connected in Wales

18/12/2018

Getting rural areas connected in Wales Add to Your Pages

18 December 2018

Mobile and broadband coverage improve, but more progress needed in rural areas

New Ofcom rules to boost mobile reception in areas that need it most

Plans for spectrum sharing' to support improved mobile coverage and innovation

Mobile and broadband coverage are improving in the UK, but too many rural areas still get a poor signal according to Ofcom's major study of the UK's communications networks.

Our annual Connected Nations report shows that mobile coverage continues to improve but remains limited in many rural areas of Wales. 98% homes and offices can get a good, indoor 4G signal from at least one operator; while 69% are covered by all four networks, up from 45% a year earlier.

Indoor reception is important, but people also expect a good signal when outdoors and on the move. Today's report finds that 75% of the land mass in Wales has complete' call coverage from all four operators up from 62% a year ago.

And 90% of Wales' geography has a good 4G mobile internet signal from at least one operator, compared to 80% last year. Over half (57%) of the land mass has complete' 4G coverage from all four, up from 30% last year.

People in rural areas still struggle to get good mobile coverage, and Wales has the biggest urban-rural divide for 4G coverage. While 79% of urban homes and offices have complete 4G coverage, the figure for rural premises is less than half that (36%). In some remote parts of the country, there is no coverage at all, 10% of Wales (9% UK) is not covered by a good 4G service from any operator.

Ofcom wants to see faster progress in rolling out modern 4G mobile internet to areas still lacking good coverage allowing people to make calls, access the internet, web video and use smartphone apps wherever they happen to be.

Today we have set out updated plans to release new airwaves for mobile services, including requirements for operators to significantly increase outdoor data coverage, using at least 500 new transmitter sites to reach more people and businesses.

Releasing more airwaves for mobileWe plan to auction two spectrum bands' for mobile services together, in late 2019 or early 2020.

The 700 MHz band. These airwaves are well suited for providing good-quality mobile coverage, both indoors and across very wide areas including the countryside.

The 3.6 GHz 3.8 GHz band. This mid-frequency' spectrum, which will be auctioned alongside the 700 MHz band, is suitable for supporting lots of data-hungry connections in concentrated areas. It can be used to offer 5G services the next generation of very fast mobile broadband.

Ofcom plans to include binding coverage rules with the spectrum. These mean that up to two winning bidders would each have to, within four years of the award:

Extend good, outdoor data coverage to at least 90% of the UK's entire land area within four years of the award, including at least 90% of England, 90% of Northern Ireland, 74% of Scotland and 83% of Wales.1

Improve coverage for at least 140,000 homes and offices which they do not already cover. This means new coverage will be targeted at areas that are harder to reach; and

Provide coverage from at least 500 new mobile mast stations in rural areas. This will ensure operators transform coverage in areas where it is lacking, rather than meeting the rules by just boosting existing signals.

During next year's auction, the price for winning airwaves that carry these rules would be discounted by up to 300-400m to reflect the significant investment required to meet them, and the social benefits they will deliver.

As well as working towards comprehensive mobile broadband coverage across the UK, Ofcom is supporting the development of 5G to increase mobile capacity and help the UK remain a world leader in mobile technology.

Eleanor Marks, Ofcom's Director in Wales, said: The findings of today's report are encouraging Wales has seen the greatest improvement across the UK in terms of 4G coverage being available from all operators, but more must be done so communities are not left behind.

Coverage is improving, but expectations are also increasing. So we are continuing to support competition and innovation, to help improve coverage across Wales - especially in our most rural areas.

Sharing spectrum to support coverage and innovationOfcom has today also published plans to allow certain spectrum to be shared by different users, to support innovation and local coverage initiatives across the UK economy.

Some of these airwaves could support wireless technology in areas as diverse as logistics, mining, agriculture and connected devices that will form the Internet of Things'. Other airwaves could be used by organisations and groups to build and operate their own local mobile networks, improving coverage indoors and outside.

For example, we propose to make spectrum available for shared use in the 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands, which can be used by existing mobile handsets. We also plan to enable third parties to use airwaves that are licensed to mobile operators, but not being used by them. This could be particularly suitable for local communities to boost coverage.

Making the data more available at levels that are of most interestAlongside this report, we are also publishing an interactive dashboard, allowing people to see data at the level and locations they are most interested in. People will have the option to choose from various levels of geographical detail, including local authorities in Wales and National Assembly for Wales constituencies.

Areas of North East Wales have some of the best 4G mobile coverage in Wales with Vale of Clwyd, Wrexham and Delyn constituencies having 100% 4G geographic coverage.

Of the ten devolved constituencies
LINK: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__search/s/redirect?collection=web&url=https:...
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