The pledge by the mobile operators to spend £5 billion tackling mobile not spots helps explain the speed of the EE (with £2 billion of its debts) sale to BT and the latter’s plans for a £2billion rights issues plus £3 billion of extra debt
The City appears to have welcomed BT plans but they appear to take it to within a £billion of risking its current Baa2 debt rating. That the mobile operators pledge is only for 90% of the UK adds further confirmation for the need for a new approach to addressing the needs of the final 10%. Meanwhile the pressures to improve mobile cover for those in “rural” Inner London (where BT often claims it has no business case for improving fixed broadband) are increasing with exercises like Syed Kamall‘s “No Bars” campaign backed by the Evening Standard .
The good news is that the cost of tackling not spots can be cut by up to 80% by organising practical co-operation in making available shared mast sites and wayleaves. The issues (including both economics and politics!) are different in urban areas to those in the countryside but shortly after Christmas I expect to be able to invite members of the all-party Digital Policy Alliance to a round table to pool practical experience regarding addressing inner city and business park “not spots”, including model agreements, early in the New Year. This is part of the promised follow up to the meeting I organised on 12th September to help drum up inputs to the consultation on Digital Infrastructure Investment.
The economic value of work addressing notspots to enabling initiatives like Microsoft’s support for Retail Week to have serious impact on mainstream UK business cannot be overstated. In the blog on my Digbeth experience, (when I learned why our forecasts of demand are so wrong). I referred, albeit in disguised form, to the transformation of a transport business at the heart of the local retail supply chain, from voice messages and paperwork to text and images between the smart phones of the boss and his drivers and customers, stored in a cloud.
The reason was nothing to do with awareness campaigns or consultancy advice. It was that the fibre to every tenant on the business park was accompanied by high speed, high reliability, secure, wifi. The boss could be confident in relying on sending photos of paperwork to his drivers. They could respond in kind, equally confidently. Both could rely on GPS positioning to show where everyone, including at the collection and delvery points, was.
It was not rocket science. It did not require clever teenagers or apps.
But it did require confidence that the technology, partiucarly mobile and wifi, would be reliablw.
Now think of all those high street retailers and inner city businesses whose wifi and mobile cover is, at best, flakey. The deal made between the Secretary of State and the Mobile operators should help 90% of UK business. But think also of all those farmers and rural SMEs (including much of our tourist industry) whose choice is, realistically, between satellite and wet string. Hence my Christmas greetings to you all.