Government signals confidence on rural coverage plan
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
Photo © Mick Garratt (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Speaking prior to his recent departure Jeremy Wright, the outgoing culture secretary, said that he was “very optimistic” that the government will be able to strike the deal proposed by the UK’s mobile operators back in May.

According to their proposals, this would involve the creation of Shared Rural Network, a project in which all four operators fund, develop and share mobile network infrastructure in rural areas.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Wright said that “we are not miles away” from striking a deal and that filling in mobile not spots has been a priority for him since he became culture secretary a year ago.

According to a blog post by Mark Evans, O2’s CEO, the SRN would be carried out in two phases, the first to eliminate partial not spots, and the second to address total not spots. He also indicated that if all stakeholders (industry, government and Ofcom) played their part, “… the SRN will increase all-operator geographic coverage from the current level of 67 per cent to 92 per cent, partial not spots will almost all disappear and over 3,700 square miles of the UK will for the first time be covered by 4G. However, if any participant fails to play their part, the outcomes of the SRN will be diminished and scaled down.”

While discussing what government and Ofcom could do to ensure the successful delivery of the SRN Evans said: “Ofcom needs to remove the coverage obligations that it is intending to attach to the forthcoming auction of mobile spectrum. Why? Because the SRN delivers a better outcome: while coverage obligations may require one or two operators to provide better geographic coverage, the SRN will deliver better coverage from all operators.”

This story has been updated to reflect the news that Jeremy Wright has lost his role as culture secretary as part of the changes being made by the new prime minister Boris Johnson and his team.

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