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Mobile firms told: get your act together

Do you live in a 'notspot' area, devoid of 3G and internet coverage? The Government is hoping to fix that. Peter Jenkinson goes under coverage

The "notspot" debate opened up in the House of Commons this week. The word describes a place where 3G, or broadband, internet access is either non-existent, or very poor. But what can be done about it?

It appears the Government plans to oblige mobile operators to improve their coverage in these areas, meaning they may have to share equipment in the area, which sounds like something they should have been doing already.

The issue affects almost a fifth of the UK, and, in spite of several attempts to date, a solution to get mobile firms to co-operate has yet to be found.

The word "oblige" now seems a little soft; surely this level should be shifted up a notch, at the very least, to "insist".

Secretary of State for business, innovation and skills, Sajid Javid, said he was determined to sort out the issue of mobile notspots: "It can't be right that in a fifth of the UK, people cannot use their phones to make a call. The Government isn't prepared to let that situation continue."

One major step forward would be to insist the networks shared infrastructure - so, sticking transmitters on each other's masts. Hardly a technological breakthrough, and not something that requires a level of rocket science to implement, this would make a significant difference to many people and just requires good manners and a straightforward agreement.

It is likely that operators, who have been given until November 26 to respond to suggestions from the Government, will use this opportunity to demand a relaxation in planning legislation and to be allowed to erect more masts, rather than share existing ones.

Currently, there isn't an industry standard for how we measure data, or voice coverage for that matter.

For consumers to make informed choices, at the very least, we should have this in place.

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