UK 4G coverage worse than in Albania and Peru, report finds

General view of sign promoting 4G network service outside an EE phone shop. Picture Rui Vieira/PA Wi

General view of sign promoting 4G network service outside an EE phone shop. Picture Rui Vieira/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Britain's 4G connectivity is worse than the networks of countries like Romania, Albania, Panama and Peru, according to the Government's official infrastructure advisers.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) found that market provision of mobile services has left too many 'digital deserts' and 'not spots' where users cannot get 4G signals, even within major city centres.

It called on the Government to step in to ensure that basic talk, text and data services are available to all Britons and to make the country ready for next-generation 5G communications.

The NIC was asked in March to advise ministers on how the UK can become a 'world leader' in the deployment of 5G, which potentially offers ultra-fast, ultra-reliable, ultra-high capacity seamless connectivity to support future technologies like augmented reality, connected vehicles and the 'Internet of things'.

But the Commission found that there was still much work to be done to haul the UK out of its 54th position in global rankings for 4G, with typical users able to access the service only 53pc of the time. Countries like the USA and Japan already have data volumes four to five higher than the UK, the report found.

The Commission called for the creation of a strong 'digital champion' in government, backed by a dedicated Cabinet minister, to drive forward change.

The Government and regulator Ofcom should develop a Universal Service Obligation requiring providers to ensure consumers can access essential services when they need them, regardless of the network they subscribe to.

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Preparations for 5G must include a trackside network to deliver enhanced connectivity for rail passengers on all key routes by 2025, as well as mobile networks 'fit for the future' on motorways by the same date, said the Commission.

And it called for 'tens of thousands' of small cells to be installed in urban centres to eliminate areas of poor and no reception.

Some 20pc of urban homes and 8pc% of rural premises are currently in not-spot areas for 4G coverage and only 8pc of A and B roads have full 4G connectivity, the report found. Even on the motorways, users fail to get either 3G or 4G almost 25pc of the time.

NIC chairman Lord Adonis said: '5G is the future - ultra-fast, and ultra-reliable it has the potential to change our lives and our economy in ways we cannot even imagine today. But the UK is currently languishing in the digital slow lane.

'Britain is 54th in the world for 4G coverage, and the typical user can only access 4G barely half the time. 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.'

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