Mobile Communications

UK Mobile Peering Plan Makes Sense - So Let's Connect

Sometimes (alright, rarely) news comes along that makes so much sense that you think ‘Very good, why has that never occurred to me before?’ I had that sense this week when the UK government said it was considering forcing mobile operators to enter peering agreements. So when my Vodafone device can’t find a signal it connects to the closer EE beacon. Simple. And smart.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, however, political types like to present a counter argument. So today we have techUK asking for some due consideration. I quote the statement from Antony Walker, deputy CEO, in full.

“Getting the best mobile coverage and quality of service for UK consumers is essential in today’s digital society. techUK believes that technology should be ubiquitous and supports the underlying motivation behind today’s announcement by the Government calling for further action to fill remaining gaps in mobile coverage. However implementing national roaming, which is one of the four options being considered, would be a very big step.

“The incentives for infrastructure deployment are very finely balanced and care must be taken to ensure that a switch to national roaming does not lead to unintended consequences. As Ed Richards Chief Executive of Ofcom, explained to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee national roaming could ‘disincentivise’ infrastructure investment and competition as well as have technical consequences leading to a worse overall customer experience.

Extending the reach and quality of mobile services is a vital goal but it’s paramount that an in-depth and detailed consultation with industry takes place, ensuring investment infrastructure and competition is balanced with the needs and experience of the consumer. A three-week consultation process is too short to fully consider all the options and implications of such an important issue with such long-term consequence.”

If these weasel words could be any more so then they would come with sharp front teeth, small paws and a long, skinny body. But then who or what is techUK with its lower-case ‘t’ and its anti-word-space name? A lobby group (grr) that counts many technology companies among its number, natch.

The idea that mandatory peering would act as a deterrent to innovation is arrant nonsense. Having a broad network is a table-stakes requirement for carriers and they clearly don’t want to cover every base with their own money. If a libertarian capitalist approach still means that many of us struggle to get a decent connection in even in the megalopolis that is London, then making political demands is perfectly legitimate.

We’ve seen this before of course, for example when some called for incentives for investment in poorer regions as if the operators don’t have enough in their coffers to invest – the old advice of ‘speculate to accumulate’ still applies. The UK should make this happen and not be put on hold by vested interests.


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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