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O2 backs London Mayor’s calls to improve capital’s digital economy

James Pearce
June 21, 2016

Business director Ben Dowd praised Sadiq Khan’s pledge to end London “Notspots” but said UK needs to do more to improve digital infrastructure

O2 has challenged the UK government to do more to improve the digital economy after London mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to tackle London “notspots.”

Notspots are areas with no mobile signal. In a letter to mark the opening of London Tech Week, Khan promised to be “a champion” for the capital’s tech scene by tackling areas with no coverage.

sadiqkhanKhan (pictured right), who replaced Boris Johnson as mayor last month, said: ” will work closely with the tech community to remove the barriers to its further growth, and help make London a more prosperous city for all. London’s tech sector has got unique opportunities and also unique challenges, and I will act as its champion to ensure we keep our position as the best city for digital entrepreneurship in Europe.

“It is also vital we improve our digital connectivity so I will make it a priority to work with partners to tackle London’s ‘notspots’ and treat digital infrastructure with the same status as other key public utilities.”

O2’s call

Dowd said the words from the London Mayor were “very welcome” but said the pledge needs to now be turned in to a reality.

According to figures from the operator, the UK economy, worth an estimated £1.5 trillion a year, would be boosted by £1.5 billion by 2020 if just 30 towns were given access to better digital infrastructure.

“London is recognised as a world-leading tech hub – a status we are all proud of,” Dowd said. “We have to ensure digital fuels future entrepreneurship, innovation and growth – that means making sure our digital infrastructure is world class.

“We need greater collaboration between tech businesses, local authorities and landlords to collectively champion the improvement of Britain’s digital infrastructure – so both people and businesses can make the most of technology.”

Digital Economy Bill

Operators have long called on the government to reform legislation around site access and planning laws to help them tackle notspots. In 2014, O2, along with EE, Vodafone and Three, all agreed to a mandatory 90 per cent coverage target for voice and texts. In return, the government agreed to reform the Electronic Communications Code, which governs site access.

However, delays in reforming the laws left a “bad taste” in the mouths of operators, then-EE CEO Olaf Swantee told Mobile News.

In last month’s Queen’s Speech, Chancellor George Osbourne announced plans to put into place laws reforming the ECC through the upcoming Digital Economy Bill.

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