Three of the UK’s four major telcos have committed to building 222 new masts as part of an endeavour to address rural coverage issues.
Vodafone, O2, and Three UK will build and share the new masts to improve rural 4G coverage across all four nations of the United Kingdom.
Nick Jeffery, CEO of Vodafone UK, said:
“We know connectivity is vital and the only way to fill the holes in the UK’s mobile coverage is to work together.
Our unique collaboration with O2 and Three will deliver 222 new sites in parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that need better connectivity.
Delivering the Shared Rural Network will make a huge difference to communities across the UK.”
124 new sites will be built in Scotland, 33 in Wales, 11 in Northern Ireland, and 54 in England. Construction will begin this year and is due to be completed by 2024.
The endeavour is part of an initiative called the Shared Rural Network (SRN) and represents its first stage. SRN aims to increase the proportion of UK landmass where all mobile networks provide 4G coverage from 67 percent to 84 percent.
Mark Evans, CEO of O2, commented:
“The Shared Rural Network is a new and more collaborative way of delivering greater investment in infrastructure to improve mobile digital connectivity – a high impact enabler of economic growth.
I am delighted that O2 is working in partnership with other mobile operators to deliver the Shared Rural Network, which will support individuals, businesses and communities across rural Britain.”
SRN is a privately-funded venture but the government is providing over £500 million in a bid to eliminate complete “notspots” where no operator offers 4G coverage.
Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:
“I’m delighted to see major progress being made to banish ‘not spots’ of poor or patchy mobile coverage. This new infrastructure will unlock the potential of rural communities in all four nations and offer a greater choice of fast and reliable 4G services.
As part of this new Shared Rural Network, the government is also investing half a billion pounds on new masts in areas without any signal at all meaning no one is left behind.”
The notable outlier of the mast-building commitment is the UK’s largest operator EE, which has opted not to take part. However, the operator already delivers widespread 4G coverage and is confident in being able to meet its SRN targets through upgrades to its existing sites.
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