O2, Three and Vodafone to build 222 4G masts to boost rural coverage
UK mobile operators O2, Three and Vodafone will partner to build 222 new mobile masts to boost rural coverage across country.
The news forms the first part of a Shared Rural Network between the three and will increase coverage in specific parts of the UK through the new mobile infrastructure. 124 new sites will be built in Scotland, 33 in Wales, 11 in Northern Ireland, and 54 in England, with each operator being responsible for the development of 74 sites each.
“The Shared Rural Network is a new and more collaborative way of delivering greater investment in infrastructure to improve mobile digital connectivity – a high impact enabler of economic growth,” said Mark Evans, CEO of O2.
“I am delighted that O2 is working in partnership with other mobile operators to deliver the Shared Rural Network, which will support individuals, businesses and communities across rural Britain.”
Though 222 is the aim, the exact number and location of these masts are subject to O2, Three and Vodafone finding suitable sites, obtaining the necessary power supply and backhaul as well securing planning permission – hinting that it may be subject to change.
Construction will start later this year with completion set for 2024, as per the agreement with UK Government and its telecoms regulator Ofcom.
“Mobile connectivity is absolutely critical for communities around the UK helping to support local economies and keeping people connected with their friends and family,” added Robert Finnegan, CEO of Three UK.
“The Shared Rural Network will have a transformative effect on coverage across the UK and it is great to be working with the rest of the industry to achieve this.”
The next of the project will see all three operators engage with local stakeholders and other key parties to ensure the rapid delivery of this new infrastructure, all of which will enable 4G for these rural communities.
Overall, the project will increase the proportion of UK landmass of 4G mobile networks from 67% to 84%. It will also “virtually eliminate”, according to the three, partial not spots areas where at least one of the UK’s mobile networks provide 4G coverage.
“We know connectivity is vital and the only way to fill the holes in the UK’s mobile coverage is to work together,” said Nick Jeffery, CEO of Vodafone UK.
“Our unique collaboration with O2 and Three will deliver 222 new sites in parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that need better connectivity. Delivering the Shared Rural Network will make a huge difference to communities across the UK.”
In addition to this privately funded Shared Rural Network investment, the government has also pledged over £500 million eliminate areas where there is no 4G coverage from any operator. This will increase every mobile operator’s UK landmass to 90%, with a combined coverage of 95%.
“I’m delighted to see major progress being made to banish ‘not spots’ of poor or patchy mobile coverage. This new infrastructure will unlock the potential of rural communities in all four nations and offer greater choice of fast and reliable 4G services,” said Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure.
“As part of this new Shared Rural Network the government is also investing half a billion pounds on new masts in areas without any signal at all meaning no one is left behind.”
Broken down into regions, in Northern Ireland the SRN will see 4G coverage increase from 75% landmass to 85%; in Scotland it will increase from 42% to 74%; in England it will increase from 81% to 90%; and in Wales it will increase from 58% to 80%.