Campaigners are calling for urgent action following the revelation that in 14 rural local authority areas in England, four out of five households do not receive 4G mobile coverage from all the big four mobile providers.
As of the end of 2017 there are no legal targets in place to ensure the mobile network operators invest in improvements. The CLA, which represents 30,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses in England and Wales, has asked Ofcom to force reluctant mobile network operators to improve coverage in rural areas by imposing a legally binding coverage target on their operating licences. It is calling for EE, O2, Vodafone and Three to be required to deliver 4G coverage to 95% of the UK geographic landmass on all networks by 2022.
Analysis of Ofcom data conducted by the CLA shows that while 4G can currently be accessed on all host networks across 58% of the UK, rural areas are served the worst. The ten local authority areas with the lowest rates of indoor 4G coverage in England are all given the most rural Government classification of ‘Mainly Rural’, and have indoor 4G coverage of less than 15%. The worst served are Rutland (3.42%), Ribble Valley (6.37%) and Maldon (8.63%).
CLA President Tim Breitmeyer, who farms in Cambridgeshire, said: “These figures lay bare the extent to which those living and working in rural areas are cast out into the digital wilderness. It also poses serious questions about what commitment, if any, the mobile operators have to delivering coverage in rural areas. Delivering this mobile coverage is vital to boosting the economy, providing safety and improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
“People living and working in rural areas are missing out on the opportunities that we take for granted in towns and cities to improve the productivity of their businesses, to attract new businesses into their communities, to make emergency calls, and to have the same instant access to social and educational resources. This inequality is simply not good enough.
“For years the mobile companies have promised to improve rural coverage. They have extracted public money, sweeping changes in the law and a range of other concessions on the back of these promises. They are not being held to account when they don’t deliver. It is time to impose a legally binding target to cover 95% of the UK with 4G by 2022.”
The worst local authority areas in England for indoor 4G coverage from all providers, which all have less than 20% coverage, are:
1. Rutland – 3.42%
2. Ribble Valley – 6.37%
3. Maldon – 8.63%
4. South Norfolk – 10.64%
5. Breckland – 11.22%
6. Melton – 13.76%
7. Copeland – 14.13%
8. North Norfolk – 14.18%
9. North Dorset – 14.24%
10. Mid Devon – 14.25%
11. Richmondshire – 14.86%
12. Barrow-in-Furness – 15.79% (Classified as ‘Urban with Significant Rural’, all others in bottom 15 are ‘Mainly Rural or ‘Largely Rural’)
13. Staffordshire – 16.14%
14. Eden – 17.87%
15. North Devon – 19.11%