The UK government has announced the Shared Rural Network, a deal which will bring together EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone to provide mobile coverage in rural areas. By 2025, 95% of the country will have access to 4G mobile connectivity. The biggest beneficiaries of the initiatives will be those in rural Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
Under the plans, coverage will be provided to 280,000 premises and 16,000 km of roads. Over time, there will be “indirect improvements” which will boost in-car coverage on 45,000 km of road and better indoor coverage in around 1.2 million business premises and homes.
The mobile operators have committed to legally binding contracts and an investment of £532 million to close partial not-spots; areas where there’s only coverage from some operators. The UK government will also provide £500 million to eliminate total not-spots where no carrier provides coverage.
Commenting on the Shared Rural Network, Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said:
“For too many people in the countryside a bad phone signal is a daily frustration. So today we’re delivering on the Prime Minister’s 100-day promise to get a £1 billion landmark deal signed with industry to end poor and patchy mobile rural coverage. This is an important milestone to level up the country, improve people’s lives and increase prosperity across the length and breadth of our United Kingdom.”
If any of the firms fail to meet the commitments they agreed to in their legally binding coverage commitments, they could face fines from Ofcom. The fines could be as high as the firm’s gross revenue if they fail to meet their targets.