‘Universal’ 4G service urged

Aberdeenshire Council has agreed to make representations to Communications regulator OFCOM and UK Government Ministers to ensure that a universal service obligation is added to the next generation of mobile broadband services.

The move follows a motion from Mid Formartine Democratic Independent Group Councillor Paul Johnston to last week’s meeting of the full Aberdeenshire Council. The Council agreed that a universal service obligation should be an essential outcome of the OFCOM round of 4G mobile licensing, and asked the Chief Executive to make representations to all appropriate bodies and Ministers to make the Council’s view known.

OFCOM is preparing to start the auction of 4G spectrum in the first quarter of 2012. However, Cllr Johnston believes that by including an obligation for providers to cover a minimum of 95% of the UK by geography, in contrast to current 3G mobile services, rural Aberdeenshire could get a fairer share of mobile broadband access.

“I’m delighted that the motion went through successfully”, said Cllr Johnston. “When 3G and wired broadband were rolled out, commercial considerations meant that cities and main transport corridors benefited first.

“In Aberdeenshire, some areas still haven’t been fully converted to faster ADSL+ speeds, while some areas still don’t even get 3G coverage. Government has had to spend money to help smaller communities to get connected in order to deal with this market failure.

“By allowing one or more bidders to bid for a universal service, those bids might be lower, but it would help to bring in 4G coverage more quickly, and might allow communities to leapfrog current levels of 3G and wired broadband provision with what promises to be a faster service.

“Now that Aberdeenshire Council has backed the principle of a universal 4G service obligation, I hope that other rural local authorities can be persuaded to come on board.”