An issue which encouraged many constituents to email me over the Christmas period was the Make the Air Fair campaign.
Access to high-quality mobile phone services is essential. As well as helping people to interact it is also key for the economy and public services. I would like to see mobile connectivity improve and I agree that the mobile market should be fair and competitive.
Customer choice and reliable coverage should be available everywhere in the UK. Indeed, the National Infrastructure Commission has said there are "too many digital deserts" across the country, and ranked Britain 54th in the world for 4G coverage.
During the last Parliament, the Coalition Government failed to improve mobile connectivity and while I welcome some measures within the current Government’s Digital Economy Bill, I am concerned that it will not do enough.
As you know, Ofcom is currently consulting on the release of the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands of the mobile spectrum. These proposals are well known to me, and I have spoken in Parliament about the potential issues auctioning these frequencies may cause for people who use hearing aids and devices. You can watch my speech here or read it on Hansard. I am aware that several organisations, including ‘Make the Air Fair’ are calling for a cap of 30% spectrum ownership for any one network operator.
This band of spectrum is one of our most significant public assets. How it is auctioned and regulated are issues of critical importance to the economy.
I am concerned that the Government has failed to foster a competitive communications market. More competition means better service, more investment and lower prices; and Ofcom should be supported to make sure that happens.
Licensing conditions for the spectrum auction must be ambitious and tough. These auctions should benefit everyone through better coverage and contribute to our digital economy, rather than simply raising revenue or providing benefit to the mobile network operators.
I will follow the outcome of Ofcom’s consultation closely and can assure you that I will continue to press the Government to improve communications infrastructure and mobile network coverage in all areas of the UK.