IET urges reform of mobile infrastructure regulations in UK

Communications experts from the IET are calling on the government to change their plans over the new spectrum allocation, including the new 4G technology for the next generation of mobile phones.

Members of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) believe that the government should take radical steps to ensure that regulation does not continue to be a serious barrier to growth and say that this must begin with the government defining a national ambition for UK mobile infrastructure to support UK competitiveness, investment and innovation.

‘Growing demand for broadband is stretching the capability of existing networks’ said Prof Will Stewart from the IET. ’Wholesale network competition must perform better or we will fall further and further behind consumer expectations.

‘It is important for the government and regulators to promote a vision for the future of mobile superfast services that inspire sustainable investment and wider competition.

‘A reformed and modernised UK network regulatory framework then needs to fully support this ambition.  It is not about more regulation but the right regulation.’

The IET has outlined three mobile-communications challenges, namely capacity, coverage and regulatory.

It stated that growth in demand is set to continue, but mobile networks lack the capacity to allow them to keep up with both the capacity demand and the rising access speeds on the fixed broadband networks. The organisation maintains that an additional spectrum will only provide modest gains and will not satisfy the rapid-growth demand in data services.

Similarly, the move to higher reaches of the radio spectrum (to build data capacity) is driving a shrinkage of ‘effective’ mobile coverage with enhancing capacity. The IET believes that the introduction of Femto cell-type technology will be required to achieve service coverage and improved data throughput in order to reverse the trend.

In terms of regulation, network competition is now said to be weakening while retail competition is intensifying. According to the IET, this puts into question the emergence of the right new mobile infrastructure platforms to support the creative industries and consumer choice for the mobile digital age.

Stewart said: ‘We have had extensive discussions on different aspects of this issue and are conscious that, as with all such issues, there can be much complexity in the details.

‘So, in writing directly to the culture secretary, we have chosen to present a specific view of the future of the key area of superfast mobile wireless access.

‘Of course, concern in this area is driven by the need to support new smartphone and other mobile services where coverage, regulatory and capacity issues are already serious enough to be a limit on new services. The current mobile regulatory framework, far from coping with these new challenges, has become part of the problem.’

The IET concludes that the government must consider mobile and wireline communications more fully in the context of national infrastructure, in the same way that it does with energy, transport and water.