The Government’s £150m plan to take 4G mobile coverage to six million residents of rural areas is being threatened.
Operator Three is reported to have stated to civil servants that is not interested in putting its 4G equipment on the masts that have been paid for by the mobile infrastructure project set up by the Government.
A decision on whether Three will take part in the project has been moved back until the upcoming 4G auction has taken place in the early part of 2013.
Three had been looking for a chunk of sub-1GHz spectrum, but it didn’t get it. Because low frequency spectrum is able to go further than higher frequency spectrum, it does not need as many masts to gain coverage. Nevertheless, a Three spokesperson told us that the operator was still involved with the process.
It appears that the Government has cut back on its plans for the project – when it was first announced last October, Chancellor George Osborne stated that the £150m project would achieve improved coverage for six million people. He said at the time that coverage over Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales was 90%, and across the whole of the UK, 95%. It is now apparent that the project will be targeting 60,000 premises in what are called ‘complete not-spot areas’, as well as 10 roads in the UK.
This month was due to see an invitation for companies to submit tenders for the project, but a Department of Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson told The Guardian the invitation would be published ‘in due course’. The spokesperson also stated that the main focus of the scheme is to maximise how many people gain benefit from the investment as far as possible. They added: ‘It is still our aim to cover the majority of the premises and key roads situated in complete not-spot areas.’