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Mobile networks to let rivals’ customers call 999

Emergency 999 access across all mobile networks

The UK’s phone watchdog has proposed plans to help consumers access emergency services using their mobile phone even if they cannot get a mobile signal via their own mobile service provider’s network. 

Poor mobile signal bars emergency access

At the moment, mobile calls to emergency numbers – 999 and the Europe-wide emergency number 112 – can only be connected if the caller’s own mobile network is available in the area. 

Lack of mobile signal on a mobile phone user’s own mobile network can be a particular issue in remote areas. This means that in some parts of the UK – particularly in Scotland and Wales – emergency mobile phone calls cannot be connected from certain mobile networks.

UK emergency mobile roaming 

Mobile phone watchdog Ofcom is working closely with mobile phone network operators – 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone – and the emergency services to develop a service where emergency mobile phone calls automatically ‘roam’ onto an available mobile network if there is no coverage from a customer’s own mobile service.

If technical trials by the mobile phone network operators are successful, Ofcom expects this UK emergency mobile roaming service to be in place by the end of the year.

Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards said: ‘There are now more 999 calls made from mobiles than fixed line phones so it is vital that we and the mobile operators develop a roaming service to ensure people in need have full access to safety of life services.’

The plans to introduce a 999 mobile roaming service have been welcomed by mountaineering and rambling groups across the UK

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