Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 16:02 UK

Ofcom seeks help on mobile rules

Camera phone, Getty
About 85% of Britons now have a mobile, says Ofcom

The good and bad aspects of the UK's mobile phone networks are being sought by Ofcom.

The telecoms regulator wants help from consumers and industry on areas that need more regulation or where the rules can be loosened.

It is also looking for ideas on how best to extend mobile networks across the entire nation.

It said rule changes might be necessary given the rapid pace of technological change in the industry.

Strong signal

The consultation has been prompted by the rising number of complaints lodged with Ofcom about mobile services.

It said although 90% of mobile phone owners were happy with their handset, that left about 1.4 million people who were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their service.

"With significant market and technology developments under way, now is the right time to ask some tough questions about the future approach to regulation," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards in a statement.

Ofcom said an indicator of how mobiles were developing was shown by the prediction that mobile calls were "set to outnumber fixed calls in the UK within the next 12 to 18 months".

Via the consultation Ofcom is looking for ways to improve deals for pay-as-you-go customers and reduce the parts of the countryside where no mobile signal can be received.

In particular Ofcom is interested in comments about so-called "mobile termination rates" - the prices phone firms charge each other for access to one another's networks. Cutting these prices may mean lower phone bills for consumers.

It said it would eliminate rules in areas where competition was doing a good job of protecting consumers' interests. This might mean making it easier for new entrants providing novel services to get going.

Ofcom said it welcomed the views of consumers on any and every aspect of the UK mobile telephony market. It has set up a blog to air some of the discussion generated during the consultation period.

The consultation is due to close on 6 November.

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