round-balesAs Ofcom announce the five winning bidders to deliver 4G in the UK the Countryside Alliance has called for a clear and swift schedule for delivery for rural areas amidst fears the city markets will be served first. One block of spectrum contains a 98% indoor coverage obligation*, which was won by Telefonica/O2, and this will be delivered by 2017. The promise is that almost the whole UK population will be able to receive 4G mobile services by the end of 2017 at the latest.  4G coverage will extend far beyond that of existing 3G services, covering 98% of the UK population indoors, which will be even more when outdoors. Operators will be able to start rolling out 4G services across their networks for consumers in spring or early summer 2013.

Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner commented: “2017 is still a long way away and our concern is that the city markets will be the priority for providers, leaving rural communities and businesses, who don’t even enjoy reliable 3G access, falling further behind. We welcome the commitment to 98% coverage which the Alliance has been campaigning for and would like to see a clear timescale for delivery in rural areas.

“The countryside has been lagging behind urban areas for far too long when it comes to mobile signal, not only disadvantaging them socially, but economically. Today’s announcement by Ofcom will hopefully allow the future mobile market to be competitive, which can only be good for consumers and will ensure greater choice for those living in rural areas. However, the true success will be delivery of a 4G network in the countryside sooner rather than later. We now look to the mobile operators to deliver a service that ensures rural communities will no longer be left behind in this digital age.”

*98% of the UK population (expected to cover at least 99% when outdoors) and at least 95% of the population of each of the UK nations – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – by the end of 2017 at the latest.