Ofcom has today proposed placing new coverage obligations on mobile operators for 4G services as part of their winning 5G spectrum bids.
All four operators have met the obligation to reach 90 per cent of the country's landmass by the end of 2017.
But the UK regulator said: "While the previous obligations have resulted in improvements, we want mobile companies to go further. We are now planning new requirements for when we release spectrum in the 700MHz band for mobile services, which we expect to auction in late 2019."
Operators will be able to increase coverage by up to 3 per cent at a cost of no more than £300m, it added.
"We are proposing that winning bidders of some of the spectrum would have to roll out improved 4G mobile coverage in rural areas – including for properties that are currently unable to access good coverage from any operator. The proposals would also require these mobile companies to provide better coverage in each of the UK's nations."
Operators acquiring the licences carrying these obligations must provide good coverage across at least 92 per cent of the total UK landmass.
"We expect this would equate to more than 90 per cent of the rural landmass. As part of this obligation, we propose that a specific target for coverage in each nation must be met," it said.
The regulator has also published details of how it will support the rollout of 5G, the next generation of mobile technology, including plans to release different spectrum bands to fuel 5G.
Last month the regulator gave all four UK mobile operators the go-ahead to bid in the forthcoming 4G and 5G auction, as well as Hull-based fixed wireless ISP Connexin and Airspan Spectrum Holdings, a subsidiary of US outfit Airspan.
The auction plans were previously subject to legal challenge by both Three and BT/EE. The High Court rejected these claims in December, and the Court of Appeal refused Three permission to appeal that decision on Valentine's Day. ®