Less than one in five MPs believe UK's mobile comms regime "works well for customers"
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:

Only 18 per cent of the UK’s MPs believe that the country’s current mobile communications system work well for customers, according to an online survey commissioned by the Federation of Communication Services (FCS) and conducted by Dods Research in February. The figure is higher for Conservative MPs, 26 per cent, but falls to 16 per cent amongst Labour MPs.

The survey of 80 MPs, with the results weighed to accurately reflect current party composition in the House of Commons, found that 61 per cent of MPs believe that consumers would benefit from increased wholesale competition and if there were more than four competing networks.

Support for wholesale competition is even greater amongst Conservative MPs with 65 per cent support. They are also more likely to support increased retail competition, 55 per cent compared with 39 per cent across all MPs.

50 per cent of MPs support the idea that the radio spectrum is ‘a hugely valuable national asset’, while 26 per cent of MPs support the idea that mobile should follow the same regulatory model as fixed-line (ie: ownership of the mast sites and network infrastructure should be separate from the branded resale operations). The latter figure is slightly higher for Conservative MPs, 29 per cent, but considerably lower amongst Labour MPs, just 16 per cent. Only two per cent of MPs believe that fixed line should follow the same regulatory model as mobile (ie: ownership of the network infrastructure and exchanges should be combined with the branded resale operations).

The survey also asked MPs for their views on the transition of the UK’s emergency services to the Emergency Services Network, which will run with pre-emption over EE’s public cellular network [together with new Extended Area Services sites in areas too sparsely populated to be commercially viable – Ed].

In transitioning services to the new network, the over-riding concern for MPs, with 72 per cent agreement, is that “not spots” will not impact their constituency. 91 per cent of Labour MPs are concerned about this, compared with 54 per cent for Conservative MPs.

Ensuring the safety of front line staff is also important, selected by 41 per cent of all MPs. This is a greater concern for Labour MPs (52 per cent selected this option, compared with 32 per cent for Conservative MPs).

Only 21 per cent of MPs agreed that “Combined ‘live’ voice and data streaming will help improve emergency services response efficiency and incident management”, which Dods Research attributes to a possible lack of understanding of the new system.

13 per cent of all MPs said that ‘the public can be relied upon to act responsibly’ if mobile phones stop working because of emergency services pre-emption in a crisis.

“All in all, I am encouraged that FCS’s policy positions – in favour of increased competition, more wholesale access, and greater accountability for spectrum holdings – resonate so positively with our nation’s policy-makers, said Chris Pateman, CEO of the FCS (pictured right). “This research gives added impetus to the modest suggestions in our response to the Ofcom consultation on the impending 2.3 and 3.4GHz auction, where we argue five per cent of spectrum should be reserved for MVNO aggregator platforms like Transatel and X-mobility.

“At the same time, despite the questions raised by the Public Accounts Committee, we remain concerned that the ESN programme is ‘off the radar’ for many constituency MPs. And that questions about how it’s all going to work in practice in the front-line, where it really counts, may remain unanswered until it’s far too late to change anything.”

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