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No more reception blackouts in the UK, if proposed national roaming plan goes ahead

New legislation apparently being considered in the UK could put an end to annoying mobile phone reception blackouts. The proposed plan would introduced a national roaming system, where phones would swap between networks in areas where one offered better coverage than another. According to a report published by the Telegraph newspaper, more than a million people in a fifth of the country have problems finding adequate cell reception from a single provider.

A consultation is expected to take place later this week, where the government will try to push the four major networks in the country – O2, EE, Vodafone, and Three – into accepting the plan voluntarily. If they don’t, then legislation could be introduced to force them into it. An anonymous source speaking to the newspaper said, “If these companies do not change, we might force them to change.”

National roaming has been proposed before, but rejected by networks for being impossible to implement in the time given, legally problematic, and “undesirable in principle,” according to reports at the time. Now, it seems UK politicians aren’t going to accept excuses.

Related: AT&T launches new international roaming plans, but they don’t beat T-Mobile’s offers

Although there are no details on exactly how the system would work, it’ll likely be along the same lines as international roaming, where a phone will find the network which offers the best reception at that time. Preference would most likely be given for the network to which the phone is locked or contracted, but in areas where a better alternative is available, customers will be given the option to swap over.

Europe’s mobile network in general is going through a period of change. Roaming prices are being reduced, with a view to abolishing them entirely in the near future, while major networks are being encouraged to buy up smaller operators, to create a less fragmented market. A report in the New York Times on the alterations includes several complaints about poor local network coverage, and those interviewed say they would happily pay more for improved reception. Should networks be forced to bring in national roaming, this news will no doubt help soften the blow.