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Ofcom is to conduct a second consultation into 4G broadband as it looks towards increasing mobile network coverage.

The media regulator will consult industry stakeholders again over the upcoming 800MHz and 2.6Ghz spectrum auction, with a view to raising its coverage target from 95 per cent of the UK to 98 per cent.

Back in October 2011, the government pledged to invest £150 million in next-generation mobile broadband, providing service providers commit to connecting remote communities to 4G networks.

A HM Treasury statement said the investment should improve the coverage and quality of mobile services for the five to ten per cent of consumers and businesses that live and work in areas of the UK where existing mobile coverage is "poor or non-existent".

"The procurement of additional mobile phone mast sites to increase coverage will begin in 2012," it added.

Ed Richards, chief executive officer at Ofcom, said the regulator was taking a crucial step in preparing for "the most significant spectrum release in the UK for many years".

"The proposals published today will influence the provision of services to consumers for the next decade and beyond," he added.

Mr Richards said that as the UK enters a new generation of mobile communications, Ofcom's objective is to promote effective competition and to stimulate both investment and innovation.

"We are proposing a significant enhancement of mobile broadband, extending 4G coverage beyond levels of existing 2G coverage - helping to serve many areas of the UK that have traditionally been underserved by network coverage," he added.

Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.com, said the explosion in popularity of the smartphone has "transformed the mobile landscape".

"Brits have become increasingly data-hungry, downloading movies and surfing on the move, using social networking sites and e-mailing wherever they are," he stated.

"4G networks are pegged to deliver connection speeds as fast as 100Mb per second, making current 3G services and even some fibre-optic broadband offerings in the home look like small fry in comparison, and vastly improving the user experience for tech fans with portable gadgets."

Mr Doku said that like 3G, 4G uses telephone masts so it is easier and more cost effective to implement than fibre optic networks, which require providers digging up roads to install.

"The key to keeping 4G affordable and accessible will be to encourage competition between providers in terms of mobile coverage for 'not spots' and pricing alike, both of which have been outlined in Ofcom's proposals."

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