Published: 08:56, 27 June 2019
| Updated: 08:58, 27 June 2019
An organisation has warned small towns and villages are being left behind in the race to switch on super-fast 5G services.
With the latest mobile transmitters being phased in around the country now, the CLA South East warns many are still waiting on 4G being rolled-out.
The CLA represents landowners, farmers and rural business. It comes almost a year since its initial warning on the issue.
Regional director Robin Edwards said: “The future of the rural economy depends on fast, affordable and reliable connectivity.
“Many rural areas fall short of a 4G service due to the inability of mobile network operators to resolve poor signal and mobile not-spots.
"Rural business must not be side-lined. It is vital that 4G coverage is put in place first because a future 5G service relies on 4G infrastructure.”
Recently drafted proposals by the major mobile phone companies for a “single rural network” would mean mobile operators sharing masts on a reciprocal basis and forming a new company to build joint masts in rural areas.
In return, operators are asking for rural coverage obligations associated with upcoming spectrum auctions to be ditched and a reduction in the annual licence fees paid by networks for the funding of new masts.
The industry’s plans have the potential to deliver coverage improvements. However, says the CLA, in their current format they are not legally binding and, if met, would mean 95% coverage by 2026 – some four years later than existing government manifesto commitments.
Mr Edwards added: “We are pleased to see mobile companies engaging with the issue, but any suggestion that rural users can wait seven years for 4G coverage is totally inadequate. Furthermore, it leaves too much riding on the goodwill of operators when previous voluntary targets have been missed.
“Only a strong, robust, transparent and legally binding regulatory framework will ensure the needs of the countryside are met in a timely manner.”