Ofcom has slapped O2 with an official notice after it failed to complete the roll-out of its 3G network within the set timetable.

The telecoms watchdog has told O2 to make its high-speed mobile internet network available to at least 80 per cent of the population by 30 June. If it doesn't, it risks losing four months off its 3G licence, as well as fines of up to £40 million.

To date, O2 has only covered 75.69 per cent of the population. This is a shortfall equivalent to approximately 2.5 million people, Ofcom said.

3G demand

“Our strategy has been to roll out our 3G network in areas where there is the most demand, providing high quality, in-building coverage in those areas.  We have rolled out our 3G network to over 75 per cent of the population.

"Where we do have coverage it has consistently provided the best quality. We also have one of the larger 3G customer bases,” an O2 spokesperson told TechRadar this morning.  

“We accept that Ofcom is enforcing the terms of our licence. However we are fully committed to growing our 3G coverage and customer base with the best quality 3G service and are confident that we will have met Ofcom's requirement before June 2008.”

The other four 3G network licensees – H3G, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone – have all complied with the 80 per cent coverage rule by 31 December 2007 set by Ofcom.