National roaming is a flawed concept that will have a detrimental effect on the growth of the UK’s mobile market, according to the UK mobile industry, although some have spoken out in favour of the plans.
The government wants operators to find a way to share signals to let those in remote regions move across networks run by O2, Vodafone, EE or Three and have more chance of getting a signal.
A National Roaming Consultation published earlier this month asked for the industry to respond to the plans.
Unsurprisingly, given the backlash it caused at the time, the operators have stuck to their guns and again outlined numerous difficulties.
EE reiterated its aversion to national roaming, citing research commissioned by the firm which claimed that any national roaming implementation would reduce overall network funding and delay the rollout of advanced 4G services by up to two years.
“EE’s consultation response reflects our longstanding view that, while we support the ambition to improve rural coverage, the government‘s proposal for national roaming is a flawed concept,” the company said in a statement.
The firm also hinted at a proposal being worked on with other operators, although it did not provide any specifics.
“Instead, together with the other major UK network operators, we will propose a solution that helps solve the problem of rural coverage, without any of the technical, economic and competitive barriers of national roaming,” EE said.
“If agreed by government, the joint proposal can be implemented quickly and for less cost. A win-win for the British public.”
O2 also confirmed that it had responded, and has other ideas that it believes are more workable than national roaming. Again, the operator did not elaborate on the plans.
“We have responded to the consultation and made our concerns over the national roaming proposals very clear while offering a solution that would achieve the same ambition,” O2 said.
“This includes a number of policy improvements that would help overcome existing barriers and deliver a better outcome for UK mobile phone customers.”
Meanwhile, the industry body for the mobile industry, the GSM Association, also said in a public response to the consultation that national roaming would create more problems than it would solve.
“The GSMA believes there are alternative solutions for tackling the issue of partial not-spots in the UK outside mandated national roaming, which is technically complex, expensive and would impede law enforcement activities,” it said.
The GSMA explained that the ability to gather communications data and identify who made which calls and when would become inherently more complex if customers were moving across networks.
The challenges come as the government looks to put demands on communications service providers to gather more data on citizens as part of a new counter-terrorism bill.
Three told V3 that providing as wide a coverage as possible is vital, and that the firm is consulting with the government on the best means to achieve this.
“We’ve invested heavily to bring coverage to around 98 percent of the population. We support the principle of expanding coverage to address areas less well served, and are in discussions with government about the most effective means to deliver that,” the firm said.
Vodafone said that it would not be commenting.
While the mobile industry appears dead against the national roaming idea, others are in favour of the measures.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has said that the idea would be of huge benefit to its members, many of whom are cut off from mobile services owing to their location.
CLA president Henry Robinson said: “The lack of a mobile signal is holding back opportunities for thousands of people who live and work in the countryside.
“We support the government’s attempt to resolve this major problem. We hope the government and the mobile industry can work out a voluntary solution, but we would support regulation as a last resort.”