The UK government has proposed a national roaming rule which would mean your mobile can access any network to offer complete 2G call coverage. This means even in weaker areas of connection, or notspots as they're being dubbed, you could still get signal bars on your mobile.
This sounds great but there are hidden issues. The government is effectively trying to fix coverage problems at home by applying the same rule that works when roaming abroad – using another network's infrastructure to get connection. This means focusing on outdated 2G networks as the cost of 4G advancement, which according to networks offers even wider coverage on the 800MHz spectrum. The result has been outcry from the networks.
Spending money to build new network towers, that offer connectivity in a tiny area, and then being told to share that with the competition means most networks don't have incentives to get building. The government doesn't seem to want to engage on that issue, it just wants 100 per cent 2G coverage.
One side effect of this notspot idea would be a drop in battery life. Vodafone has said the changes will mean, "a much higher risk of dropped calls, lower battery life and negative impact on services such as voicemail." Since your mobile would be constantly searching for the best signal from multiple networks that would mean a huge drain on battery, apparently.
At the moment the government is only suggesting networks share 2G connectivity, which is currently used for voice calls. One of the problems here is that companies will need to invest in 2G right on the cusp of making the leap into 4G where calls should soon be able transmit over 4G at higher definition. This will take money from that project slowing down 4G progress. How that is the case isn't clear but networks are up in arms about costs.
Separate to this issue Ofcom says the networks are expected to pay an additional £182.3 million a year on 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrums which could be used to fix this notspot issue. Networks are all claiming the whole issue would be less of a problem if the government were to make installation and building of new mast towers an easier process, through cost and planning ease.
EE says: "We [also] need Government to work more closely with the industry to remove the barriers to efficiently building more signal in more places." Technology research firm Ovum shadowed these thoughts saying: "The most obvious thing for the government to do would be to make it easier for operators to put up masts quickly and in the most cost effective way."
So essentially the government wants better voice coverage, that means networks need to waste money on old 2G infrastructure when 4G could fix the problem soon. So is the government trying to fix an issue without really thinking about it? Or are networks using this as a way to save money and cut planning corners for 4G? Either way it sounds like notspots may remain poorly connected for longer than we'd like.