EE, O2, Three and Vodafone sign up to the Shared Rural Network
Written by: Charlotte Hathway | Published:

Oliver Dowden, the UK government’s digital secretary, has confirmed the Shared Rural Network proposal has now been signed by ministers and mobile network operators.

Under the terms of the deal, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone will invest in a network of new and existing phone masts. This will provide strong 4G coverage in rural areas regardless of what network provider is being used. The network of masts will be overseen by a jointly owned company called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited.

DCMS says the Shared Rural Network will provide guaranteed coverage to 280,000 premises and 16,000km of roads. In addition, the government says the deal will lead to increases in coverage in some areas by more than a third, with the biggest coverage improvements in rural parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Scotland has its own scheme to improve rural mobile coverage – the Scottish 4G Infill Programme – whereby WHP Telecoms Ltd, the Scottish Government’s supplier in the programme, will build masts that all mobile network operators can use. The first site under that programme went live last month. It is not clear how the two programmes will work together.

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.”

Mark Evans, chief executive officer, O2, said, “I’m proud of the work we’ve done to secure the Shared Rural Network agreement, ensuring customers living in rural areas will be able to get the fast and reliable coverage they need and deserve. The collaboration between the industry, government and Ofcom should be seen as a leading example of how to deliver infrastructure investment and we look forward to now rolling the Shared Rural Network out as quickly as possible.”

Nick Jeffery, chief executive officer, Vodafone UK added, “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. 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.”

The deal was first proposed back in October and earlier this year Vodafone deployed a 5G multi-operator radio access network, a sign that providers could share the same mobile base station for 5G in future.

Mobile UK, the trade association for the UK’s mobile network operators, shared a picture of the moment the deal was signed on Twitter, as below.

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