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Rural areas could be left behind in rural roaming

Recent research suggests that rural areas in the UK are at risk of being left behind in the race for 5G because of the lack of incentives for major mobile phone operators to invest in them.

Researchers from the University of Surrey have warned the Government that the spectrum sales run by telecoms regulator Ofcom are “not a viable approach” to rolling out connectivity and have already left out residents, transport corridors and businesses in rural areas.

The university argues that competition and public financing will not be enough to fill the coverage gaps found in previous mobile internet generations and urges the Government to avoid “repeating the mistakes of the past” with 5G.

Therefore, the report recommends scrapping “one size fits all” spectrum auctions and suggests splitting them into high and low-density areas. Moreover, it calls for further investment in 5G trials in rural areas where this is little commercial imperative for coverage.

Last year Ofcom launched a consultation into the poor coverage of rural areas in the UK and this year, it introduced tougher requirements for mobile operators bidding to provide services.

In addition, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry received funding last year to become the UK’s first ‘testbed’ for 5G services in a trial that is expected to attract businesses to the West Midlands region.

However, the University’s warning comes after the Government scrapped a plan to boost mobile phone coverage on the Trans Pennine route earlier this year, as it was too costly. Even though the project, which was expected to cost £11 million, was included in the Autumn Budget, the cost ballooned to £25 million and was deemed to not be value for money.

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