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Gov't to invest £150m in improving mobile coverage

Voice signal should hit rural areas by 2013

The government will invest £150m in improving mobile phone coverage across the UK.

Chancellor George Osborne made the announcement at the Conservative Party Conference which is being held this week in Manchester.

See also: Better rural mobile coverage? Make the operators pay

The cash, which will come from unspent funds from other government departments, will ensure that areas that currently don't receive any or good mobile signal will see an improvement.

"Working with Ofcom we will aim to extend mobile phone coverage to 99 per cent of the country," he said.

"Currently in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland only 90 percent of the population has good mobile coverage. Across the UK as whole there is only 95 percent coverage."

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Osborne said the mobile coverage would be improved through the installation of new masts across the UK, and it will work in partnership with local authorities to do this.

"This will improve connectivity and productivity across the country," added Osborne.

The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) welcome the announcement.

"By tackling the problems rural areas have in receiving a decent mobile phone signal, the Government is taking the countryside seriously and recognising that the rural economy has a lot to offer," said CLA President William Worsley.

It is thought that by 2013 rural areas that are currently 'not-spots' for voice signals will receive coverage but it won't be until 2014, when 4G networks are rolled-out, that the areas will be given data coverage.

The 4G network will use the 800MHz and 2.6GHz radio spectrums to offer faster mobile broadband services, with speeds thought to be as much as 'up to' 100Mbps. The spectrums will also be able to cope with a greater capacity than existing 3G services. The 800MHz band is currently used for terrestrial TV broadcasts, but the digital switchover means it can now be assigned for mobile broadband use.

Mobile operators can not begin rolling out these networks until Ofcom has auctioned off parts of the spectrum. Initially, Ofcom said the auction would take place at the beginning of 2012. However, in June this year O2 threatened Ofcom with legal action, claiming the auction was illegal under EU law. The network believes as itself and Vodafone already own some 900mhz spectrum, Ofcom will ensure a certain amount of new 800mhz spectrum goes to their rivals, but says the two spectrums aren't directly comparable and the move would give their rivals an advantage when all operators should start with a clean slate.

As a result, Ofcom has delayed the auction until the second quarter of 2012, which will mean it'll be 2014 before the networks can begin rolling out 4G services across the country.


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