back to article Who us, share infrastructure? Networks reject gov proposal

A governmental proposal that would require the UK mobile phone networks to share infrastructure has been shot down in flames. The idea proposed by culture secretary Sajid Javid, which would remove any need for competition between the mobile networks on the basis of coverage, has been rejected as “unworkable” according to a …

  1. James 51

    It all depends on the fees the other networks have to pay to use when they don't have their own coverage.

    Or perhaps some public body could put them up and charge the networks based on market share for the roamers.

    1. Matt 21

      Or a share of the cost of construction.

      I've seen it work in other countries. It seems better for the environment and better for the subscriber... so of course the big companies don't want it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Or a share of the cost of construction.

        Or perhaps even a national infrastructure network that sells airtime to the customer facing networks. An Openreach for the airwaves.

        Besides the whole issue of no-spots will largely disappear when Scotland leaves the UK since thats where the bulk of the rural no coverage exists.

      2. bpfh

        Re: Or a share of the cost of construction.

        It works in France. In a not-spot for my contracted operator (Bouygtel) I suddenly found myself with a roaming icon, in the middle of France with a cryptically named network that offhand, I cannot remember the name, but somthing like "interop". It would seem that this is a roaming agreed network managed by Orange, giving GPRS data (that actually seemed fairly nippy when browsing) and voice... So it can be done, you just have to read the riot act to the operators...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So I'll just get a cheap roaming SIM in Europe and use that for when UK providers can't be arsed to provide a service.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Gordon 10


      What has European roaming got to do with rural UK connectivity.

      Major league commentard fail.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eh?

        Because a Euro SIM will connect to *ANY NETWORK*, whereas your O2 SIM is O2-only.

        It won't solve every problem, but will allow you to exploit the coverage given by different providers.

        If you are going to comment, try to think before typing.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fatuous arguments defending the status quo, as usual

    "If covering an area which is economically marginal means that the network which has gone to the expense then has to give that coverage to rivals, no one will go to the expense"

    Who said anything about giving capacity away? A straightforward charging mechanism could be put in place, and by suitable design could actually incentivise provision of coverage in areas that currently have no service by directing all tower-specific revenues to the operator.

    An interesting alternative is to have an independent operator of towers of last resort which all MNOs are mandated to roam onto. If there's some level of economic demand, OFCOM offers the MNO's a "last chance" offer to provide coverage on their terms, before the independent is offered a local mast monopoly with all the MNO customers in range roaming onto this (ie, if they don't take the opportunity they can't then try and undermine the independent at a later date). Wouldn't undermine the ability of the MNO's to do things their way, but if the incumbents can't or won't extend and improve the networks then it can still be done. As I conceive the idea it wouldn't be a universal coverage obligation, simply a means of providing capacity in locations where there's commercial levels of demand, but where individual operators elect not to provide connection. It also create a clearer playing field if (for example) local government wanted to make a contribution to extend mobile coverage.

  4. Andrew Ducker

    If there was only an O2 transmitter in one area, and when Three customers used it Three had to pay O2 for the privilege, this would quickly provide an incentive for Three to build their own (or to just pay up, if that was cheaper).

    This doesn't seem very complicated to me.

    1. Simon Rockman

      If the sharing was compulsory (as is proposed) who monitors the inter-network costs? What's to stop the network with the coverage ripping off the other networks like crazy when they are obliged to use it? Who monitors the charging? Ofcom? Yeah, right.

      Do it at a reasonable roaming rate and it rapidly becomes easier to not build in poor areas as you lose any advantage.


      1. paulf

        "What's to stop the network with the coverage ripping off the other networks like crazy when they are obliged to use it?"

        If the other networks were that aggrieved at the "rip off charging" they could always build their own tower to avoid their subs roaming onto the over priced tower! That would soon stop the silly charges and improve the coverage into the bargain! I suggest the rip off charges wouldn't happen in the first place as the risk of charging too much would make it economically viable for another to build in that area.

        The network operators are so big that any kind of rapacious or egregious charging for other subs roaming onto one of their rural towers would be a kind of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) as the rip off merchant* would be hammered elsewhere where their subs roam onto someone else's tower.

        [* - yes I know they ALL are]

        But I agree your answer is correct in all cases to the rhetorical question "Ofcom? Yeah, right."

        PS - You need a "Reg Hack" Vulture icon. Pop in a request to the BOFH!

  5. Adair Silver badge

    This is exactly the kind of things that happens...

    when you have a quisling government that listens far too much to the interests of big business.

    There's nothing to stop the government enacting that X amount of coverage is a statutory obligation, blah blah. If the ISPs don't like it they don't have to play---but they would play, because they would still make their money, just perhaps marginally less. But then laziness and greed are always a potent combination, both in commerce and government.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is exactly the kind of things that happens...

      "There's nothing to stop the government enacting that X amount of coverage is a statutory obligation, "

      That won't work well, because it becomes arbitrary rather than market driven. Moreover, whenever government mandates anything, it becomes bureaucratic, expensive, and invariably delivers a whole range of unintended consequences. I work in a sector where the just one of several government "social" obligations programmes is succinctly summarised in a nearly 200 page document, and in its first few pages it refers to important supporting documents totalling nearly another thousand pages. Do you really think that actually helps anybody other than bureaucrats justifying their own existence?

      1. Adair Silver badge

        Re: This is exactly the kind of thing that happens...

        A good point, up to a point, but would you take the same view over the quality of drinking water piped to your house, or the consistency of electric current?

        'The market', much as politicians like to bow and scrape to it when it suits them (and/or suits their paymasters) is not the be all and end all of human society.

        We are grown-ups(!?). We are quite capable of collectively choosing how our society will be run, and what we hold to be essential services that will be delivered to arbitrary standards.

        The question really is: are communications/data infrastructure now on a par with drinking water, gas, and electricity as basic universal services?

    2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: This is exactly the kind of things that happens...

      Proper noun: Quisling

  6. Gordon 10

    Dear politicians.

    If you want universal coverage mandate it as part of the License terms for all networks not just o2.

    You had the perfect opportunity when 4g came along and you blew it.

    Alternatively all that free 2g spectrum that Vodafone and O2 got in the early days. Mandate that for continual usage of it, especially for new services they both accept 99.9 geographical population coverage.

    Give them an incentive to share and they'll soon divide up the rural parts and come to some network sharing agreement.

  7. Stretch

    Mandatory Coverage Requirement

    Give them all exactly the same requirement. Tell them to sort it between themselves. They will simply set up a system that allows them the most profit. The most profit comes from least overheads and costs (you would have thought).

    If they all must serve everyone then they will naturally find the least expensive way of achieving that.

  8. waynep

    "If covering an area which is economically marginal means that the network which has gone to the expense then has to give that coverage to rivals, no one will go to the expense."

    But under the current system nobody is building coverage in "economically marginal" areas anyway, lousy argument from them.

  9. Graham Triggs

    Infrastructure as a public service

    OK, one network is better than none, and competition might mean that one network goes to the expense to give it an edge.

    But that still relies on the competitive edge being something that can generate a profit. If it doesn't why would they?

    Just think if the infrastructure was provided by a public company, that leased access to the telcos at a reasonable rate. Then we could have a better service for everyone, and at a lower cost.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Infrastructure as a public service

      >Just think if the infrastructure was provided by a public company, that leased access to the telcos ...

      Most parts of the country already largely have this situation in fixed line voice and DSL/fibre broadband...

      So plenty of experience of how those arrangements work in practise...

      1. James 100

        Re: Infrastructure as a public service

        An odd definition of "public" company there, though it is technically what the P in "BT Group plc" (Openreach's parent company) stands for. Not to mention, relations are often quite acrimonious between BT and the rival telcos which have to buy Openreach's services to compete with them - there's an awful lot of regulation from Ofcom involved, and frequent disputes and complaints about unfair treatment.

        While the networks may have "rejected" the idea, they're already half way to implemented it, between O2 and Vodafone's "Cornerstone" and EE-Three's closer integration in MBNL: we're basically down to two sets of base stations already, from the five we had a few years before. Merge MBNL and Cornerstone, you've arrived at that single network destination anyway!

        Not to mention we already *have* a roaming option for those who really want it (my ISP, Andrews & Arnold, offers SIMs which can roam across every UK network except Three).

        So, in summary, the government "wants" companies to offer a service which they already provide to those who want it - and nobody's explained this to them yet?

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