This article is more than 1 year old
UK.gov mobile not-spot coverage project set to be completed in the year 2155AD
Everyone reading this will be DEAD
Exclusive The government has fallen woefully short of its promise to provide mobile coverage to 60,000 homes in "not spot" areas across the UK, having only erected a meagre eight masts in more than two years.
Over the last year the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has managed to erect six masts. Those masts built so far typically provide coverage to around 200 homes each.
Originally more than 575 sites had been commissioned, following the publication of the “no coverage” database by watchdog Ofcom. At the rate seen so far of four masts a year it will take over 140 years to complete the £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project.
The Mobile Infrastructure Project finally got off the ground in May 2013, after DCMS partnered with Arqiva and four mobile network operators.
The original deadline was to to have all the sites equipped and live by the end of 2015. However, that deadline was extended to March 2016 to "ensure that benefits of the programme are maximised."
DCMS confirmed a further 24 sites are in "the contractual build phase." Even if all of those are complete by the deadline of March 2016, it will still have substantially failed to deliver on the project.
The budget for the project in 2014/15 was £71.5m, but of that it had only managed to spend £25.6m, according to the Major Projects Authority. Unsurprisingly, the MPA flagged the project as being at “high risk of failure”.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, DCMS said there had been problems finding locations that provide the coverage needed to satisfy projects requirements.
It added there had been problems with site providers' willingness to allow a mast to be erected, local planning application, the availability of power and access and meeting the final value for money test based on build costs rather than forecast costs.
"For this reason we cannot say exactly where sites will be built until all the steps leading up to build have been completed," said DCMS.
A departmental spokesperson told The Register: "Providing services for remote areas can be extremely complex but as construction has begun on more and more sites the rollout will gather speed. As a result more homes will continue to benefit from improved coverage."
According to DCMS, a "legally binding landmark deal" with the four mobile network operators will guarantee mobile coverage to 90 per cent of the UK’s landmass by 2017. This is expected to reduce mobile not-spots by two-thirds, it said. ®