Mobile phone coverage in the UK is "deplorable", according to the chairman of the national infrastructure commission, Lord Adonis.
The comments come on the day that Lord Adonis launches a public consultation into the UK's infrastructure.
Speaking to the Eyes On Events, he also highlighted traffic congestion.
Lord Adonis said traffic speeds in London had fallen dramatically over the past five years and in much of the city were lower than in 1914.
He warned that without action the UK faced gridlock on roads, railways and in the skies, along with worsening air quality.
"We've got to get real about tackling congestion and with it, air pollution, because the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has rightly highlighted air pollution as one of the big killers and threats to the quality of life in London," he said.
- Productivity growth 'to remain sluggish'
He also argued that mobile phone companies need to be pushed to raise investment in their phone networks.
"Making a mobile phone call is rather like watching an early Charlie Chaplin black and white film where the picture is fuzzy and it disappears every 10 seconds or so.
"And try making a mobile phone call on a train and it's nearly impossible across much of the network," he said.
UK infrastructure challenges - Lord AdonisImage copyright PA
- 4G and broadband speeds lag behind the USA, the Netherlands and Japan
- Between 2012 and 2015, speeds on inner London roads fell by up to 9%
- Overcrowding on rail services during peak times in London up by 45% between 2011 and 2016
- More than 60% of the UK's power stations will need to be replaced to meet carbon targets
Lord Adonis is launching the consultation in Birmingham along with the mayors of five metropolitan areas.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street said there needed to be a "massive" investment in public transport in his region.
Mr Street argued that investment in transport and communications could help to cure the UK's sluggish growth in productivity.
"If you improve your mobile broadband speeds, you improve the productivity of your business. If you reduce congestion you improve productivity," he told the Eyes On Events's Today programme.