You’ve got an emergency that requires a 999 call. But your mobile phone provider doesn’t cover the UK area you’re in. With Ofcom‘s new proposals, you’ll be able to roam free on any available network to make that call.
"This will provide added reassurance to consumers should they need to call 999 or 112," an Ofcom spokesman said.
"This is a particular issue in remote areas and means that in some parts of the UK – particularly in Scotland and Wales – emergency mobile calls cannot be connected from certain mobile networks."
Ofcom said it was working closely with mobile network operators and the emergency services to develop a service where emergency calls automatically "roam" onto an available network if there is no coverage from a customer’s own mobile service.
Ofcom will also consider the experience of other European countries, in particular with regard to hoax and nuisance calls made to emergency services due to inadvertent dialling of 999.
If technical trials by the mobile network operators are successful, Ofcom expects this service to be in place by the end of the year.
Ofcom’s proposals to introduce a 999 mobile roaming service have been welcomed by groups across the UK:
Ed Kilgore, chairman of Mourne Mountain Rescue Team in Northern Ireland, said: "The more chance there is of making an emergency call on your mobile when you’re in trouble in the mountains, the quicker rescue teams can come to your aid. Roaming to another UK mobile network would give people greater reassurance of being able to make a call that could save their life."
Roger Wild, mountain safety adviser with The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said: "This proposal will greatly increase the chances of getting a message through to the mountain rescue services in the event of an emergency. The benefit of being able to phone for help rather than walk off the hill to raise the alarm cannot be overstated. Introducing an emergency mobile roaming service in the UK could save lives."
Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Ramblers said: "The Ramblers warmly welcomes this proposal. Most of us now carry mobile phones, and it will now be much easier for walkers to call for help if they get into genuine difficulties in the countryside. Accidents can happen to even the most experienced walkers and this new initiative may well prove a lifesaver."