Going the Extra (Country) Mile


An FT article caught my eye today 'UK rural landowners criticise mobile mast reforms'.

Ofcom aims to increase Mobile Broadband coverage by reducing the barriers that Service Providers encounter when erecting, changing or accessing antennas on Masts. The aim being to ensure a whopping 10Mbps is available to everyone (I know.. but it is a start.)!

This is a welcome change for Consumers living with poor or no broadband coverage. Although, as the article notes, I don't suppose the Farmer whose land the mast is on will be so pleased!

However, OFCOM must do more to enable/drive Service Providers to achieve 10Mbps and beyond. Here are my suggestions as to what OFCOM should consider:

1 Realign spectrum bands so they are contiguous for each operator. This will allow smaller guard bands allowing the operators to use the spectrum more efficiently.

2 Incentivise operators to re-farm existing spectrum holdings more aggressively.

3 Force National Roaming where another Service Provider has coverage.

4 Force operators to share antennas wherever possible. This will reduce the number of antennas and extend the useful life of the mast through less weight, clutter, more space, etc.

5 Create an accurate, national open data set of masts with all pertinent info included. If operator coverage was included some useful insights could be obtained through Data Science and Mining.

6 Force operators to share backhaul and front-haul. Incentivise fibre providers to meet strict timescales when MNOs request it; rather than suddenly bringing it forward when a microwave link or alternative provider is mentioned.

These suggestions will have winners, the Consumer, and losers, the rural Landowners. Forward thinking Service Providers shouldn't lose, there is a largely untapped digital market to gain. Content, Small Businesses, Customer Loyalty. HMRC and the Government Gateway will also benefit through increased tax revenues, lower digital service costs & increased reach; narrowing the Digital Divide.

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