26.10.2019 NEWS

Shared Rural Network Announcement

Today we are hearing that the Government have confirmed they are championing a £1million deal to eliminate poor signal in rural areas.

So what does Shared Rural Network (SRN) mean?

Do you struggle with mobile signal in rural areas, cant make/ receive calls and end up pointing your phone in every which way to try and get just one bar? Shared Rural Network means this will be a thing of the past.
The benefits will be felt across all four nations of the UK with the greatest coverage improvements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mobile coverage in rural communities will be given transformational improvements. In the past we would have seen mobile network operators funding the mobile infrastructure investment but the Government and Ofcom have sought to maximise coverage through measures such as the attachment of coverage obligations, to spectrum licences and by brokering coverage agreements with the mobile industry. This approach has successfully delivered 4G to over 98% of premises in the UK.

Although the percentage of UK landmass that receives 4G coverage, from all four operators, is only 67%. While about 7% of the UK receives no 4G coverage from any operator. We would not have seen much change in these percentages under the old approach as the fundamental task was not being addressed: that demand in many rural areas is not enough to cover the cost of mobile infrastructure investment. This would be a world-first deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone investing in a network of new and existing phone masts they would all share. Consumers will be able to rely on their own provider’s network to use their mobile phones wherever they are.

O2 wanted to bring a new approach that saw the Government, Ofcom and the Industry working together to support and enable investment in rural areas. Many doubted that they would be able to do this, but after nearly a year of working closely with the other three mobile operators, it is now possible!

Between now and 2026 the SRN will increase all-operator 4G landmass coverage from 67% to 92%; will virtually eradicate Partial Not Spots; and reduce Total Not Spot landmass from 7% to 3%, introducing 4G for the first time to over 3,700sq miles of the UK.

What can we expect to see from the parties involved to achieve this?

The four mobile operators will transform their different rural networks in to a single infrastructure asset they we will all share and use and invest in its expansion.
Ofcom will consult on removing coverage obligations from licences in next year’s spectrum auction.
The Government will deliver planning policy reform to make the provision of mobile infrastructure easier, quicker and more cost effective and allocate a modest level of investment to support the provision of mobile infrastructure in the more remote rural areas.

The mobile industry has a great record of completing investment projects on time and to budget and we hope to see a final agreement early next year. With an instant boost to productivity it is important that all three affiliates drive ahead with SRN and get to delivery stage as quickly as possible. Being able to deliver a boost of mobile signal to businesses and consumers across rural areas is something that is greatly needed, providing world leading connectivity for the UK. We are looking forward to seeing how this improves flexible working for both employees and employers and boosting economical growth.

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