Projected UK enhanced mobile network reach revealed | Mobile | News | Rapid TV News
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Scotland, Wales and the North East of England are set to benefit most in improved and extended mobile coverage once the UK government’s £1.3 billion Shared Rural Network (SRN) scheme is completed.
Vodafone 5g video 27April2021
The £1.3bn SRN programme was first proposed in October 2019, aiming to wipe so-called “not spots” from the map, providing what the UK government claims will be “high-quality” 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025. This followed years of complaints by mobile consumers and businesses that the major political parties had consistently failed rural businesses by lacking a credible solution to improve mobile 4G and 5G coverage.

In practice, the scheme is made possible through a partnership between the UK’s four major telecoms operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – who will jointly invest in a network of new and existing phone masts they will all share. The four networks have already committed to legally binding contracts and to invest jointly £532 million to close almost all partial “not spots” – areas where there is currently only coverage from at least one, but not all operators. The scheme also saw a commitment by the UK government to supplement the operators’ investment with more than £500m of funding.

In addition to powering economic growth, the UK government said the uplifts in 4G coverage would allow people to seize the benefits of technology to stay connected, shop online and stream entertainment on the go.

The network build out will extend across the UK and increase coverage in each home nation with 124 new sites built in Scotland, 33 in Wales, 11 in Northern Ireland and 54 in England, with each operator leading on 74 of the new sites. Phase one of the scheme was announced on 27 January 2021, and aimed to extend the proportion of UK landmass where all mobile networks provide 4G services from 67% to 84%, and virtually eliminate partial not spots.

According to figures released by the UK government, the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Mid and West Wales and the North East of England will see the largest increases in 4G signal at the end of the project. Scotland will benefit the most of the four home nations with coverage from all four MNOs to be delivered to almost three quarters (74%) of Scotland’s landmass by the end of the programme. Once achieved this would represent an increase of two thirds and up from 42% currently.

Wales will see the next highest increases - with coverage from all four operators across its geographic areas increasing by more than a third, from 58% to 80%. Northern Ireland will see 4G from all four MNOs rise to 85% of its landmass, up from 79% in 2020. The North East of England will see total 4G coverage jump from 68% to 86%.

The SRN programme has also kicked off work to end ‘total not spots’ - areas which have no coverage from any operator. It has begun searching for, acquiring and building publicly funded masts to be shared between all four MNOs. Effective immediately, the UK government has launched a consultation with the telecoms industry to identify any existing infrastructure which can be utilised to end total not spots. It wants to reduce the need to build new phone masts and help make sure public funds are used effectively.