Shared Mobile Network Plan to End Not Spots

 

· Moves to cement plans to give high-quality 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025, meaning consumers will get good 4G signal on the go wherever they live, work or travel

· Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan supports deal with UK Mobile Network Operators to provide additional coverage to 280,000 homes and businesses and 16,000km of roads

· New plans for all operators to share phone masts to improve UK coverage is a world first

 

Poor mobile phone coverage will be a thing of the past as the UK Government champions a £1 billion deal with the mobile phone industry to banish rural not-spots.

The move will bring 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025 and be a huge boost for consumers. More people in rural areas will benefit from the speed and efficiency of services on the go - from booking travel, shopping online or speaking to friends and family.

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan is supportive of a £530 million proposal from the UK’s mobile network operators for a Shared Rural Network with the potential for it to be matched by £500 million investment from the UK Government.

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.

It is part of the Prime Minister’s plan to level up the country with world-class digital infrastructure across the country to make sure homes and businesses are better connected.

Better 4G connectivity will make flexible working easier, boost regional economic growth and close the digital divide that exists across the country. The benefits will be felt across all four nations of the UK with the greatest coverage improvements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

“We are determined to make sure no part of the country is left behind when it comes to mobile connectivity. We are closing in on a deal with the mobile network operators so those living in rural areas will be able to get the fast and reliable mobile coverage they need and deserve.

“Brokering an agreement for mast sharing between networks alongside new investment in mobile infrastructure will mean people get good 4G signal no matter where they are or which provider they’re with.

“But it is not yet a done deal and I want to see industry move quickly so we can reach a final agreement early next year.”

Strong competition promotes industry investment in mobile coverage in dense urban areas, but rural areas have fewer potential customers and have not seen the level of investment needed to provide good coverage.

The deal would see all four operators come together to create a new organisation to deliver the Shared Rural Network, in what would be an innovative and unique solution to the persistent problem of poor mobile coverage in the countryside. It would get the maximum use out of existing and new phone masts by allowing all four operators to host equipment on them.

Under the proposal, the four operators will invest £530 million to open up and share existing masts and infrastructure to close almost all partial not-spots - areas where there is currently only coverage from at least one but not all operators. It would also mean additional mobile coverage for 280,000 premises and 16,000 kilometres of roads.

If the operators agree to meet these ambitions on partial not spots, the Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan has been clear government will commit up to £500 million of investment to go even further to eliminate total not-spots - those hard-to-reach areas where there is currently no coverage from any operator.

UK Government-owned mobile infrastructure built as part of the Emergency Services Network will also be made available to all four operators, taking full advantage of government assets. This is expected to contribute to the coverage target by delivering up to an additional 2% of geographic coverage per operator, in some of the most remote, rural locations.

The Shared Rural Network proposal is subject to legal agreement. The UK Government’s ambition is to reach a formal agreement on it early next year.

 

 

Alister Jack SOS

Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack warmly welcomed the UK Government's announcement of a £1 billion deal to extend mobile phone coverage to areas with no or little signal.

The Scottish Secretary stated that so-called 'not-spots' in rural areas had been a regular issue raised with him by constituents since he was elected to the seat two years ago.

Mr Jack said: "While we have some of the best scenery in the UK and large areas of sparsely populated countryside, the strength of the mobile signal in some locations has been a genuine hindrance to residents, visitors and particulary small businesses.

"It is an issue I've raised with the Government and I strongly believe this announcement by Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan will be a real game-changer for areas like ours.

"The positive plans for operators to share masts makes a great deal of sense and the commitment to expand 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025 will add a range services to currently digitally disadvantaged areas.

"This is a real boost to everyday life and the rural economy in parts of Dumfries and Galloway."

 

Dumfriesshire Clydesdale and Tweeddale's MP David Mundell described the deal, as a positive development for remoter parts of his constituency.

Mr Mundell, a long-standing campaigner for improved mobile coverage, hoped the partnership deal between the UK Government and the mobile networks would be signed off soon.

He said: "The £530 million investment from the network operators in a Shared Rural Network will potentially be matched by £500 million investment from the UK Government.

"This extension of 4G coverage to harder to reach areas will help rural businesses, make it easier for those working from home and increase opportunities in sectors such as tourism and agriculture.

"I will be pressing for areas in my constituency with the poorest digital and mobile phone coverage to benefit from this initiative."

 

Nick Jeffery, CEO of Vodafone UK, said:

“There is no other scheme like this in the world. It will spell an end to annoying mobile ‘not spots’ for hundreds of thousands of people living, working and travelling in the more remote parts of the UK. By working together, we will deliver better coverage while offering more choice for consumers and businesses using far fewer masts.”

Mark Evans, CEO of Telefonica UK (O2), said:

“These proposals represent a step-change in the way that mobile coverage is delivered. They are the most ambitious solution, of all proposals on the table and will ensure that customers across all corners of the UK can access a good connection. By providing a much-needed boost to rural communities, the Shared Rural Network represents a vital step in bridging the digital divide.”

“Mobile has become so much more than the phone in your hand; it’s the glue that powers the UK’s economy and will be a fundamental component of our national success in the years to come.”

David Dyson, CEO of Three UK, said:

“We welcome the Shared Rural Network. It is the best way to enhance mobile connectivity for the 9.3 million living in the UK’s countryside: it brings mobile coverage to more places in the UK and it gives people in rural areas a similar choice as those living in towns and cities.”

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, said:

“While EE already has the UK’s largest 4G network, we’re always looking at new ways to efficiently deliver more 4G to areas that are hardest to reach.

“This ambitious proposal combined with critical UK Government support, will remove the key barriers to tackling the tricky not-spot problem, ensuring people and businesses right across the UK get access to the digital connectivity they need, wherever they are.“

Country Land and Business Association Deputy President Mark Bridgeman said:

“We know the countryside has huge potential for job creation and new economic growth, but in order for this to happen we must ensure every community in the country is fully-connected. Today’s news is a big step towards achieving that goal.”

“This announcement will be welcomed by everyone who lives or works in the countryside. We have been hugely frustrated at the lack of progress in improving mobile reception to date, but the legal coverage obligations now put on operators to improve the situation, through the delivery of a Single Rural Network, will ensure demonstrable improvements over the next few years for rural communities.”