Mobile UK’s ‘big four’ sign £1bn rural network agreement

14 April 2020

Mobile UK’s four members, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone signed an unprecedented £1bn agreement to eliminate signal dead zones in remote areas.

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) will transform mobile coverage, countrywide and the programme will make 4G mobile broadband available to 95% of the UK and Mobile UK’s members expect this will extend mobile coverage to an additional 280,000 premises and for people in cars on an additional 16,000km of the UK’s roads, boosting productivity and investment in rural areas. This project consists of MNOs investing to extend their coverage by upgrading their existing networks, working together on shared infrastructure and building new sites, with new government-funded masts being built to target areas with no mobile coverage from any operator.

The deal will also lead to increases in some areas by more than a third, with the biggest coverage improvements in rural parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. All four operators’ individual networks will cover 90% of the UK, enabling rural businesses and communities to thrive. “The Shared Rural Network partnership between the mobile operators and the Government is unprecedented in both its scope and its ambition,” said Hamish MacLeod, director at Mobile UK. “Mobile UK looks forward to supporting the delivery of the programme in the coming years.”

The quartet signed the deal with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden. Dave Dyson, chief executive of mobile operator Three, said the deal was “a gamechanger for the country”. Vodafone chief executive Nick Jeffery added that it was “unmatched anywhere in the world”. The deal hit a snag earlier this year when other operators objected to the proposed cost of using BT-owned EE’s equipment. BT argued that its costs were fair based on how much it had invested over the years.