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Shared Rural Network could provide 4G coverage for 95% of UK by 2025

The Government has announced plans to work with mobile phone operators to set up a Shared Rural Network for mobile phones across the UK.

It should provide 4G coverage for 95 per cent of the country by 2025.

 

Mobile operators tend to measure their coverage by percentage of population, favouring urban areas.

 

In last year’s Connect Nations report, OfCom reported only two thirds of the UK landmass had good-quality 4G coverage.

 

This new deal, which will involve all the main operators sharing existing and new mobile masts, will extend mobile coverage geographically to benefit farmers and countryside workers.

 

It is expected to provide additional coverage to 280,000 homes and 10,000 miles of road, and get rid of ‘not spots’ where network coverage is impossible.

 

The deal, announced by Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan, will involve mobile phone operators investing £530 million in the Shared Rural Network.

 

This will be matched by a £500 million investment from the Government.

 

The Government will also allow its own mobile Emergency Services Network to be made available to commercial phone operators.


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This will provide an additional 2 per cent increase in the geographic coverage by each of the operators, specifically helping the most rural locations.

 

Neil Parish, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said: “We believe this roll-out is set to have a hugely positive effect on the wider rural economy.”

 

Mark Bridgeman, CLA deputy president, said: "We have been hugely frustrated at the lack of progress in improving mobile reception to date.

 

“The legal coverage obligations now put on operators to improve the situation, and through the delivery of a Single Rural Network, will ensure demonstrable improvements over the next few years for rural communities."

 

A formal agreement on the new Shared Rural Network is expected early in the New Year.

NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said: “This announcement by the UK’s big four mobile operators could be a game-changer and will help address our longstanding concerns over a lack of decent 4G coverage in rural areas.

 

“The NFU’s broadband & digital member surveys constantly tell us how dire the current services are for many farming businesses with patchy mobile coverage remaining a major barrier to improving on farm productivity and the uptake of digital technology.

 

“With the industry facing so much uncertainty, it’s clear that farmers need as many tools as possible to maintain business resilience and having access to digital connectivity is paramount if they are to compete with our international neighbours in the global market.

 

“I would encourage industry and government to do everything it can to ensure this agreement goes ahead.”

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