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UK Government Tenders for Mobile Internet and Voice Coverage Boost to 99%

Posted: 14th Dec, 2011 By: MarkJ
UK DCMS4g uk mobile broadbandThe UK governments Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office have put out a new tender to support their £150 million plan ('Mobile Infrastructure Project') for boosting the country's mobile (voice and internet) network coverage to 99% of the population.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, first announced the move in October 2011 (here). It followed a strong campaign by the Conservative MP for Penrith (Cumbria), Rory Stewart, whom called for the mobile coverage commitment to be raised all the way from 95% to 98% as part of the soon-to-be-auctioned 800MHz (4G) band.

At the time Stewart suggested that this could lead to an additional 2 million people around Britain being able to benefit from improved coverage and would "significantly extend" Mobile Broadband into rural areas. The new tender doesn't add much but it does shed some light on a possible timetable.

Mobile Infrastructure Project Tender (Sample)

There are areas of the United Kingdom where there is no mobile coverage as provided by any mobile network operator (MNO) and other areas where there is low quality coverage which results in a poor level of customer experience.

Investment is required to develop or extend the current United Kingdom mobile infrastructure to address these shortfalls. In certain areas of the United Kingdom, particularly remote areas, there is a limited commercial case for market-driven private investments to achieve the required enhancement to coverage and quality of service.

The aim of the Mobile Infrastructure Project is to improve the coverage and quality of mobile network services; for the five to 10 per cent of consumers in areas of the United Kingdom where existing mobile network coverage is poor or non-existent; and with the aim of extending coverage to 99 per cent of the United Kingdom population. BDUK anticipate that procurement will begin by spring 2012 and it is anticipated that businesses and consumers will benefit from improved coverage from early 2013 onwards.

Mobile operators and related telecoms companies now have until 30th December 2011 to express an interest in the scheme. BDUK anticipates that the Mobile Infrastructure Project itself should be completed by March 2015 (before the next general election), which is in line with their timetable for the wider broadband market.

It's interesting to note that the DCMS has released this tender ahead of Ofcom finalising the details for its forthcoming auction of 4G (800MHz and 2.6GHz) Mobile Broadband spectrum. So far the government hasn't said whether or not the 99% commitment will apply to the new 4G licences and or a change to existing 3G / 2G services. We suspect they'll do a bit of both.
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