Procurement · 12 May 2017

Network providers failing business owners on mobile coverage

Mobile coverage
Ofcom has set a target to deliver 4G to each UK premises by the end of 2017

Unreliable mobile coverage affects seven in ten UK business owners, according to new survey findings, with rural firms most likely to receive the slowest connections.

A nationwide survey, by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), asked over 1,400 business owners how their level of mobile coverage affected trading and sales. The findings revealed a worrying high number of so-called connectivity “not-spots”.

For firms in rural regions, the figures were the most stark. Over nine in ten business owners in such areas reported unreliable network coverage from their provider, compared to just over half based in cities.

However, even inner-city firms suffered from disappointing levels of mobile coverage. Just 54 per cent of business owners in metropolitan areas could depend on a consistent 4G network.

Some six in ten business leaders even relied on out-dated 2G coverage.

According to Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, unreliable mobile coverage had started to seriously impact the daily operations of business owners.

“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,” he said in a statement.

The findings also revealed the smallest companies were more likely to suffer from a lack of 4G mobile coverage than larger firms. Just 41 per cent of employers with fewer than four staff, had 4G connectivity, compared to almost six in ten big businesses across the UK.

One solution put forward by Marshall was to relax planning laws for taller masts – a “quick win” for the next government to improve mobile coverage for the business community.

Marshall also said the Ofcom regulator must do more to hold providers to account. Day-to-day mobile coverage, he added, was not representative of the services advertised to business owners.

Ofcom has set a target of delivering 4G signal to every UK premises by the end of 2017.

“It’s clear that the UK is lagging in the delivery of access to a world-class digital infrastructure. While there have been welcome announcements to roll out 5G in the future, it’s clear that getting all businesses access to 4G first remains a top priority,” Marshall added.

To help hold your suppliers to account, we want to know how each of your providers delivers its service to you as a small business owner.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.