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March 9, 2020updated 10 Mar 2020 9:39am

Rural mobile coverage gets £1bn boost to bring 4G to 95% of UK

By Lucy Ingham

A £1bn deal being signed today between UK government ministers and mobile operators will see rural mobile coverage gain a significant boost over the next five years.

Designed to ensure that people in rural areas can get strong 4G mobile coverage, the Shared Rural Network deal will see EE, O2, Three and Vodafone group new and existing phone masts under a jointly owned company called Digital Mobile Spectrum.

This will provide coverage for at least 16,000km of roads and 280,000 properties, growing to 45,000km of road and 1.2 million homes and businesses over time.

The result will be that 95% of the UK will have 4G coverage by 2025, no matter what network users are on.

The importance of growing rural mobile coverage

While many cities in UK are beginning to reap the benefits of 5G, access to strong 4G mobile connections remains extremely limited in many parts of the UK, particularly rural areas where coverage is poor.

This is largely due to the number of people per km in these areas making building masts too expensive to justify the financial return.

However, this has meant that residents and businesses in these areas are unable to consistently access many digital services people in other parts of the country rely on – an issue that is exacerbated by poor broadband availability in such areas. This causes knock-on economic issues, and can have an impact on job creation in these areas.

The deal being signed today aims to help combat the issue, with rural areas of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales set to see the biggest gains in mobile coverage.

“For too many people in the countryside a bad phone signal is a daily frustration,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“This is an important milestone to level up the country, improve people’s lives and increase prosperity across the length and breadth of our United Kingdom.”

“A rural postcode should not be a barrier to receiving a decent mobile signal. Together, we have created a programme that is unmatched anywhere in the world,” added Vodafone UK Chief Executive Officer, Nick Jeffery.

“It will mean an end to mobile ‘not spots’ for people in the more remote areas whether they are at home, at work or on the move. We will now get on with the job of delivering it.”


Read more: Is the UK urban rural divide here to stay?