U.K. Government Pledges to Expand Mobile Coverage in Rural Areas

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government pledged to improve mobile coverage in rural areas, making more networks available to consumers and removing barriers to switching.

The government published its “strategic priorities” for telecoms regulator Ofcom, including improved mobile coverage, more reliable broadband and fairer terms for consumers, according to a statement on Friday. That’s part of efforts to extend mobile coverage to 95 percent of the U.K. by 2022.

Ofcom will examine “options to introduce mobile roaming in rural areas in a bid to improve consumer choice and tackle partial not-spots -- areas where at least one operator is present, but all four are not,” the government said. It’ll also address poor connectivity on the country’s main roads and railways.

Customers who stick with one provider rather than shopping around often pay higher prices than those who switch. Tackling this “loyalty penalty,” which costs customers of broadband and mobile an estimated 1.3 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) a year, is another task for the regulator, according to the statement.

The government is willing to consider new legislation if Ofcom believes it doesn’t have sufficient powers to address the key areas of concern. A consultation on the strategic priorities closes on March 27.

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