Insights Government launches consultation on additional 4G mobile coverage to be provided in Total-Not-Spot target intervention areas

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) is a £1 billion Government deal with the UK’s four Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, that will see both public and private investment in a network of new and existing phone masts closing not-spots and “levelling up connectivity across every corner of the UK” (see item above).

This SRN programme is split between public and privately funded elements. Government is investing over £500 million to significantly reduce Total Not-Spots (TNS), where there is currently no coverage from any operator, as well as upgrading the Home Office Extended Area Service (EAS) masts. The four operators collectively invest over £530 million in a shared network of new and existing phone masts. This will help tackle Partial Not-Spots (PNS) where there is currently coverage from at least one, but not all operators.

The Government says that the TNS investment has been developed in compliance with the UK’s subsidy obligations under the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA), including the publication of a transparency notice on 11 March 2021. The notice sets out how the programme is consistent with the subsidy principles contained in the TCA.

The Government is keen to hear from those who may be able to support the TNS network deployment in the target areas (which are set out in Appendix A of the consultation document). This could be through ownership of specific telecommunications infrastructure or where there are plans to build such infrastructure. EAS locations are demonstrated on the map for completeness but are not in scope of the consultation.

The Government says that the consultation also helps the programme to ensure that the “subsidy is proportionate and limited to what is necessary to achieve the objective”, one of the core principles governing domestic subsidy control that UK subsidies are required to satisfy in line with international commitments in the TCA.

The consultation closes on 27 July 2021. To access the consultation, click here.