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Government may be forced to improve 3G coverage on British roadways

Coverage is still very patchy, even on motorways and A roads, Ofcom admits

The Government may act to improve mobile phone access on major British highways as new research found that there is still no 3G coverage at all on nine per cent of Britain’s A and B roads.

The broadcast regulator Ofcom reported that only 35 per cent of these major roads are served by all four of the 3G networks and said it would be carrying out analysis to see if Government intervention or regulatory action was needed to improve levels of coverage.

In Scotland the proportion of A and B roads with no signal at all rises to 28 per cent - while 85 per cent cannot offer a connection to all 3G providers. In Wales 11 per cent of these main routes are without any coverage and only 20 per cent have a signal for all networks.

Even parts of the motorway system offer patchy connections with only 76 per cent of UK motorways served by all four 3G networks. In Scotland the figure falls to 58 per cent. All motorways in the UK now have some mobile signal.

There are still four per cent of A and B roads (mostly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) that do not offer any coverage even for a 2G phone. The figure falls to 1 per cent for English A and B roads.

“There remain considerable challenges, not least in hard-to-reach areas for mobile and home Internet services,” warned Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive.

Mr Richards was heartened by the growth in availability of superfast broadband and Wi-Fi and said that the 4G network would reach 98 per cent of the population. According to Ofcom’s figures, 73 per cent of UK premises have access to superfast broadband, compared to 65 per cent last year, and 4.8 million customers have taken up the technology (more than double the 2.1 million of a year ago).

The use of Wi-Fi is growing fast. The number of hotspots has grown from 16,000 to 34,000 in a year and the amount of data sent or received from these points has increased from 0.75 million gigabytes to two million gigabytes.