Campaigners are calling for urgent action following a report which formally confirms the poor mobile connectivity 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. CLA Cymru, which represents farmers and rural businesses in 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 authority areas with the lowest rates of indoor 4G coverage in Wales are predominantly classified as at least “mainly rural.” The worst served are Powys (2.22%), Anglesey (7.14%) and Ceredigion (10.52%).
CLA Cymru’s Rebecca Williams 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.
“We have written to the Welsh Government to raise our concerns on behalf of farmers and other rural businesses.”
“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 authorities in Wales for indoor 4G coverage from all providers, which all have less than 30% coverage, are:
Powys – 2.22%
Anglesey – 7.14%
Ceredigion – 10.52%
Gwynedd – 15.38%
Pembrokeshire – 15.71%
Rhondda Cynon Taf – 20.45%
Flintshire – 21.29%
Conwy - 21.39%
Caerphilly – 25.15%
Carmarthenshire – 27.94%