Government £150m mobile black spot debacle

A government schemeto bring coverage to mobile ‘black spot’ areas has been extended past its original deadline after it led to just two base stations being built since it was launched three years ago.

The project, which received the backing of all major UK mobile operators and gained EU approval, was supposed to ensure basic mobile coverage would be available everywhere by March 2015.

The government promised to provide up to £150 million to pay for finding and building sites, while the four major operators agreed to pay transmission costs, land rental and other running costs for the sites.

However the scheme has been delayed until at least spring 2016, according to Mobile magazine.

The government said that residents in Cornwall, Northumberland, Strabane, Aberdeenshire and Powys would have sites set up by the end of 2013.

It added that it had identified further sites to be set up across the country including Norfolk, Wales, the South West, Yorkshire, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Northumberland amongst others.

The only sites to be built so far are in Wimborne in Yorkshire and North Molton in Devon.

Arqiva was awarded a contractto implement the scheme by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in July 2013.

National community relations manager Peter Wingate-Saul said the information for the project was developed by Ofcom, using data provided by mobile operators for the first time.

Arqiva was then tasked with developing an implementation plan to cover as many black spots as possible.

However, Wingate-Saul explained: “As the project progressed and sites were submitted by Arqiva for approval, it became evident that some not-spots already had coverage. This prompted further work by DCMS, Arqiva, Ofcom and the MNOs [mobile network operators] to reassess and update the not-spot data that underpinned the National Implementation Plan.

“This work has now produced more detailed data and we are now making good progress in acquiring suitable sites, winning planning consents and building and commissioning MIP base stations”.

DCMS refused to provide specific information on how many sites it expects to be built and deadlines for completion when asked for ComputerworldUK.

A spokesperson said: “At this point we wouldn’t confirm numbers until the process of identifying suitable sites, acquiring the rights to install infrastructure on those sites and then securing planning permission has been completed.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

8 highly useful Slack bots for teams
Shop Tech Products at Amazon