Ofcom urged to fix rural 4G blackspots

CLA demands Ofcom to take UK out of "digital dark age"

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The UK needs to solve the issue of rural 4G 'not-spots' before it can think about introducing 5G, according to a top think-tank.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has petitioned Ofcom to force the UK's mobile operators to fix black spots in order to save users from a "digital dark age."

Speaking at a hearing by All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business, CLA deputy president Mark Bridgeman told MPs that both businesses and consumers alike are being left high and dry by slow and unreliable 4G mobile connections.

The CLA has been campaigning for better rural connections under its "4G for all" campaign since last year, and in April signed up 55 MPs in support.

'Digital dark age'

"4G is vital to running a business. It is needed for marketing, communication and driving forward innovative technology. But rural businesses are being kept in a digital dark age because of mobile not-spots across the countryside," Bridgeman said.

"Many rural communities have been abandoned by the mobile network operators who will only make investments in the countryside when forced to do so. Ofcom must demand more and challenge this reluctance to invest in rural areas."

The panel is set to publish recommendations this September on how Ofcom can improve mobile connectivity in the countryside. The news comes days after Ofcom CEO Sharon White claimed that covering the entirety of the UK with 4G would cost £6m.

"With the challenges of Brexit, rural businesses will increasingly depend on good connectivity to become more productive and efficient," Bridgeman added.

"To ensure the countryside is better connected, we need to see regulation introduced which imposes a more ambitious legally binding coverage obligation on all four major operators, plus action from Ofcom to force the mobile operators into providing much greater transparency of coverage performance and plans for rural areas."

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