UK firms blighted by patchy mobile coverage

Businesses in all parts of the UK, particularly rural areas, are experiencing full or partial "not-spots" in their mobile coverage according to new research.

A survey of over 1,400 businesses conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has found that 70% of firms experience mobile "not-spots" - areas of no mobile coverage by any operator - or "partial not-spots", where there is some coverage but not from all networks, in their local area.

The proportion of companies based in rural areas that report such issues (91%) is considerably higher than those in inner cities (56%).

The results also show that 29% of businesses have unreliable mobile internet connections, with the figure rising to 54% in rural areas. In addition, a considerable proportion of UK businesses are not accessing the highest connection speed, with only 42% of businesses reporting a 4G connection.

Other key findings of the survey are:

  • 6% of companies still typically obtain a 2G connection and 25% a 3G connection;
  • inner city firms (54%) are more likely to have 4G than those based in rural areas (25%);
  • big businesses are more likely to report 4G connections (57% of businesses with more than 500 employees) than their smaller counterparts (41% with 1-4 employees).

Dr Adam Marshall, BCC director general, said: "Time and again, I hear from frustrated businesspeople who can't use their mobiles or access the internet when they need to - basic requirements for companies to work on the move, trade online, and connect with customers and suppliers."

Rural businesses are particularly affected by poor mobile coverage and connectivity, but cities are not immune, he said. "Our research shows that 'not-spots' are prevalent across the UK. It's incredible to hear that in this day and age there are even places in the City of London where businesses can't get reliable coverage."

Marshall says some of the solutions are "obvious" - such as relaxing planning laws to allow for taller masts.

"As the regulator, Ofcom must do more to hold providers to account for the services advertised to business customers, and put in place remedies that are as strong for business users as they are for individual consumers. According to their rules, virtually all UK premises must receive 4G signal by the end of the year, but the results of our research suggest that we're a long way off achieving that target."

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