£1bn deal to end poor rural mobile coverage agreed

Ministers and bosses from mobile network operators are set to sign a £1 billion deal to make poor and patchy rural phone coverage a thing of the past.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said that the world-first deal will be a boost for people across the country in rural areas and will deliver strong 4G coverage irrespective of what network provider people use. The agreement will also spur economic growth and close the digital divide across the country through better connectivity.

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) is a deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone investing in a network of new and existing phone masts, overseen by a jointly owned company called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited, they would all share. The SRN will provide guaranteed coverage to 280,000 premises and 16,000km of roads, with the biggest coverage improvements in rural parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

It means all four mobile network operators will deliver 95 per cent combined coverage across the whole of the UK by the end of 2025 and consumers can rely on their own provider’s network wherever they are. The government has also pledged £5 billion to subsidise the roll out of gigabit capable broadband in the harder-to-reach areas of the country.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “For too many people in the countryside a bad phone signal is a daily frustration. So today we’re delivering on the Prime Minister’s 100-day promise to get a £1 billion landmark deal signed with industry to end poor and patchy mobile rural coverage. 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.”

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