Britain is 'languishing in the digital slow lane' with 4G connectivity worse than the networks of countries like Romania, Albania, Panama and Peru, according to the government's official infrastructure advisers.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) urged ministers to focus on making the UK ready for next-generation 5G communications and enhance connectivity throughout the country.
It also called for a strong "digital champion" in government and a dedicated Cabinet minister to drive forward change.
The NIC said the government should ensure that basic talk, text and data services are available to all Britons, wherever they live, work and travel as it claimed market provision of mobile services has left too many "digital deserts" and "not spots" where users cannot get 4G signals.
Some 20% of urban homes and 80% of rural premises are currently in not-spot areas for 4G coverage and only 8% of A and B roads have full 4G connectivity, the report found.
The Commission was asked in March to advise ministers on how the UK can become a "world leader" in the deployment of 5G but it found that there was still much work to be done to haul the UK out of its 54th position in global rankings for 4G.
Some of the NIC's key recommendations are listed below:
- Government and regulator Ofcom should develop a Universal Service Obligation requiring providers to ensure consumers can access essential services when they need them, regardless of the network they subscribe to
- Preparations for 5G must include a trackside network to deliver enhanced connectivity for rail passengers on all key routes by 2025, as well as mobile networks "fit for the future" on motorways by the same date
- 'Tens of thousands' of small cells should to be installed in urban centres to eliminate areas of poor and no reception.