Online marketplace eBay is calling for improvements in the quality of broadband coverage in the UK to boost mobile shopping as it reveals research showing m-commerce could deliver a £4.5bn boost to Britain’s economy in the next five years.

The study finds that mobile shopping is on the verge of a potential four-fold increase by 2016, as consumers become more comfortable with shopping on their handsets, but warns that unreliable mobile broadband could hamper sales.

M-commerce is expected to grow by a further £13bn by 2021, according to the research.

However, UK retailers are missing out on at least £1.3bn as a result of consumer frustrations with patchy coverage, unreliable connections and slow connection speeds which drive shoppers away.

In a submission to communications regulator Ofcom, eBay is calling on policy-makers to do more to address consumer frustrations when rules for the fourth generation (4G) of mobile networks are agreed later this year.

The report shows that 16% of the UK is an “m-commerce not-spot”, where mobile spending is at least 20% below the national average. Sparsely populated areas, such as the Scottish highlands and islands, rural Wales and rural counties of England are the worst affected.

But the evidence also shows that mobile shopping is underperforming in certain heavily populated areas like central London, with broadband reliability and coverage acting as a brake on the potential mobile retail market.

More than a third of consumers have failed to complete a purchase on their mobile due to issues with mobile broadband. eBay has called on Ofcom to take action to support m-commerce and help the sector realise its potential.

Ebay UK retail director Angus McCarey said: “Mobile shopping represents a massive opportunity not just for retailers, but for the economy as a whole.

“High quality and reliable mobile broadband coverage throughout the UK has to be our ambition, giving consumers choice over when and how they shop, encouraging spending, thereby benefitting online and high street retail, and giving a much needed boost to the fragile economic recovery.”

Verdict Research consulting director Neil Saunders added: “With the increasing proliferation of smartphones, more and more consumers want to make the most of the convenience of being able to shop on the move. Retailers need to move fast to optimise their websites and capture this growing market.”