Anna-Karin Hatt, Photo: Henrik Montgomer & Sören Andersson/Scanpix

Forcing cell operators to keep their promises?

The Swedish state may be willing to make a law that forces cell phone service providers to make sure the coverage they promise is actually what customers get...as a last resort.

On Wednesday, the government accused cell service providers of showing maps of the areas they cover that have no connection to reality.

Speaking at a Swedish Post and Telecom Authority conference, Anna-Karin Hatt, the IT and Energy Minister, criticized cell providers of making unrealistic promises and said they have to invest more in the cell network.

She said the situation is one in which many Swedish mobile customers don't think their cell phones work well enough. So, she said, it's extremely important to give operators a clear signal that they have to live up to the promises they've made.

In the past, she's been against the idea of making this a law. But, now she may be changing her mind.

She said she doen't believe legislation is the right way to go, but at the same time, it's important to make it clear to the operators that given consumers' strong demands, there are two ways to go: either the operators need to get on the ball, otherwise, she said, we'll have to find other ways to move forward.

One of the operators the minister criticized is Telia, and its head of information Hans G. Larsson. Larsson said he understands the criticism, but at the same time, he thinks that the formal requirements Telia has to meet in order to be a licensed cell provider are not always in line with consumers' expectations.

Larsson said that Telia has built much more than what the license requirements demands, but then there's always what the customers' expect.

Responding to a question from Swedish Radio News, Larsson said that the customers' expectations are usually reasonable. But in some places, people have the idea that they should be able to ring everywhere and that there won't be any holes in service.

As Swedish Radio's program Kaliber has shown, bad or non-existent mobile coverage in some places means for example that old people can't trust their medical alert systems to work or be able to ring ambulances. So, the question is whether it's the responsibility of the mobile operators or the government to make sure that telephones work.

Anna-Karin Hatt, IT and Energy Minister, says that Sweden has expanded the technology, thanks to the government putting tough demands on the operators, who actually do it, and that's the way it will continue, she says.

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