eBay urges Ofcom to improve mobile coverage to boost UK economy

eBay has called on telecoms regulator Ofcom to improve mobile broadband coverage to boost the UK economy

EBay has called on telecoms regulator Ofcom to improve mobile broadband coverage.

The online auction company says improved coverage would hike mobile shopping to boost the UK economy £4.5bn in five years' time.

A poll of 1,500 consumers by Verdict Research, commissioned by eBay, found over a third of respondents failed to complete a purchase on their mobile due to issues with patchy coverage, unreliable connections and slow connection speeds. The research shows 16% of the UK is in an "m-commerce not-spot", where mobile spending is at least 20% below the national average.

"Mobile shopping represents a massive opportunity not just for retailers, but for the economy as a whole. But our research shows that consumers and retailers are missing out as the cost and reliability of mobile broadband prevents shoppers from spending," said Angus McCarey, UK retail director for eBay UK.

"Sparsely populated areas, such as the Scottish highlands and islands, rural Wales and rural counties of England are the worst affected. But the evidence also shows that mobile shopping is underperforming in certain heavily populated areas like central London, with broadband reliability and coverage acting as a brake on the potential mobile retail market."

In 2010, eBay generated $2bn (£1.3bn) in global sales through mobile devices, an increase of more than 200% on 2009, driven by the introduction of barcode scanning technology and smartphone applications.

On average, UK users achieve an average mobile internet download speed of 1.5Mbps, compared with 6.2Mbps average fixed broadband download speeds.

Recent Ofcom consumer research shows 17% of UK households are using mobile broadband to access online services, with 7% using it as their only means of internet access, compared with 3% in 2009.

According to Ofcom, mobile broadband performance is likely to remain significantly below fixed broadband performance until the roll-out of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK, which is expected to begin in 2013. The new spectrum will provide much-needed capacity for the fourth generation 4G mobile technology, set to deliver significantly faster mobile broadband services

MPs have supported a parliamentary motion urging Ofcom to ensure that mobile broadband coverage is extended to include an extra two million people in rural areas.

Table 1: UK's top 10 mobile shopping "not-spots" where mobile spend is significantly below the national average (source: eBay)

Rank Place Mobile spend % lower than national average
1 Outer Hebrides 58
2 Lerwick, Scotland 57
3 Kirkwall, Scotland 50
4 Llandrindod Wells, Wales 47
5 Jersey 43
6 London WC 38
7 Inverness 35
8 Galashiels 35
9 Perth 34
10 Isle of Man 30


Table 2: UK's top five mobile shopping hotspots where mobile spend is above the national average (source: eBay)

Rank Place Mobile spend % higher than national average
1 Birmingham 75
2 Chester 62
3 Leeds 28
4 Romford 28
5 Halifax 26

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