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November 4, 2019
The UK’s mobile network operators have proposed investing £530 million into a Shared Rural Network with the potential for it to be matched by £500 million investment from the Government. The Government says that the deal will bring 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025.
Under the arrangement EE, O2, Three and Vodafone would invest in a network of new and existing phone masts that they would all share, which means consumers would be able to rely on their own provider’s network to use their mobile phones wherever they are.
The move follows Government proposals for an overhaul of planning rules and is part of the Prime Minister’s plan to level up the country with world-class digital infrastructure across the country to make sure homes and businesses are better connected. The Government said that the benefits would be felt across all four nations of the UK with the greatest coverage improvements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The deal would see all four operators come together to create a new organisation to deliver the Shared Rural Network. It would get the maximum use out of existing and new phone masts by allowing all four operators to host equipment on them. It would close almost all partial “not spots” and would mean additional mobile coverage for 280,000 premises and 16,000 kilometres of roads.
If the operators agree to meet these ambitions on partial “not spots”, the Government will commit up to £500 million of investment to go even further to eliminate total “not spots”.
Government-owned mobile infrastructure built as part of the Emergency Services Network would also be made available to all four operators. This would to contribute to the coverage target by delivering up to an additional 2% of geographic coverage per operator, in some of the most remote, rural locations.
The Government says that the Shared Rural Network proposal is subject to legal agreement and the aim is to reach a formal agreement on it early next year. To read the Government’s announcement in full, click here.