Britain has worse mobile internet coverage than Romania, Albania and Peru and suffers from vast ‘digital deserts’, a report has found.
Lord Andrew Adonis, who led the investigation, told the BBC that coverage on the UK’s trains and motorways was ‘frankly appalling’. He urged ministers to ensure there would be far fewer dead spots on the next-generation 5G network.
“The government has been putting more investment and obligation requirements on the mobile operators but we think that needs to be taken further,” Lord Adonis, who heads the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), told the BBC’s Today programme.
The Commission found that the UK is in 54th position in global rankings for 4G, with typical users able to access the service only 53 per cent of the time.
The Commission warned that Britain is “languishing in the digital slow lane” and that even major city centres are lacking coverage.
Countries like the USA and Japan already have data volumes four to five times higher than the UK, the report found.
The Commission called for the creation of a strong ‘digital champion’ in Government, backed by a dedicated Cabinet minister, to drive forward change.
The Government and regulator Ofcom should develop a Universal Service Obligation requiring providers to ensure consumers can access essential services when they need them, regardless of the network they subscribe to.
Some 20 per cent of urban homes and 80 per cent of rural premises are currently in areas not covered by 4G (‘not-spots’) and only 8 per cent of A and B roads have full 4G connectivity, the report found. Even on the motorways, users fail to get either 3G or 4G almost 25 per cent of the time.
Railways are also poorly served by 4G, the report also found, as it called on the Government to commit to mobile broadband infrastructure on key routes by 2025.
Lord Adonis said: “5G is the future – ultra-fast, and ultra-reliable it has the potential to change our lives and our economy in ways we cannot even imagine today. But the UK is currently languishing in the digital slow lane.”
He adds: “5G offers us a chance to start again and get ahead. If government acts now, we can ensure our major transport networks and urban centres are 5G ready in time to give British industry every chance to lead the world in exploiting its applications.
Adonis urged the government to seize the opportunity that new 5G technology will bring.
“From connected vehicles to the internet of things, 5G will support a whole new way of communicating and doing business. The UK must not be left behind.”