EE challenges UK rivals over coverage reporting

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

EE's CEO Marc Allera claims current system of reporting coverage by population is "unclear"

EE CEO Marc Allera has challenged UK mobile operators to change the way they report on coverage, claiming the current system is not “clear” enough.

In an open letter to the CEOs of O2, Vodafone UK, and Three, Allera challenged the industry to be “clear on coverage” by switching from reporting population coverage to geographic coverage.

The EE chief executive set out four goals the letter to Mark Evans, Nick Jeffery and Dave Dyson. These were: 

1) end the use of population coverage as an indicator of coverage in isolation;

2) Update coverage statistics and data speeds regularly;

3) Make regulator Ofcom the home of independent network testing;

4) And work with the regulator to offer consumer advice on how devices may impact their experience of a network.

In the UK, operators tend to promote coverage based on population. EE, now part of BT, claims to have 99% coverage when measured this way, compared with 75% when assessed based on how much of the UK it covers geographically.

In the letter, Allera claims 90% population coverage can be achieved by covering just 40% of the UK. He pledged to stop talking about population coverage across all channels from January 2017, and challenged O2, Vodafone and Three to do the same.

He also pledged to make more detailed reporting of geographic coverage available, based on UK counties, as well as figures for the busiest roads in the country.

Allera also detailed his plans to Ofcom CEO Sharon White in a separate letter, and challenged the industry to aid the regulator in carrying out independent mobile network testing.

“As the CEOs of the UK’s leading mobile networks, I believe we should work together to tackle what is our industry’s biggest perception challenge: customer’s expectations concerning coverage and signal quality,” Allera said in the letter.

“We want the mobile industry to start doing the right thing and be clear on coverage. I hope you’ll agree to meet with me and Ofcom to talk through these requests, and take a big step towards giving consumers the transparency on coverage and performance they deserve.”

CCS Insight CEO praised Allera’s approach, saying it was a long overdue step for the UK mobile industry.

“It will be a complex undertaking for Ofcom but one that needs to be investigated,” he explained. “For as long as we have had mobile phones, operators have reassured the consumer about coverage, speed and capacity. This could go a very long way to encouraging a more level playing field for those claims. In offering to part fund the scheme through Ofcom, EE is making it difficult for Ofcom to dismiss the idea as too complex. 

“If as EE claims, it has the best network in the UK, it may be difficult to persuade its competitors to the scheme in the short run.  It’s no surprise to see this from EE which has largely been selling its network quality and coverage to UK consumers. This bold move by Marc Allera will be studied carefully by his competitors, it will be interesting to see their reactions.”