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O2 to Extend 4G Mobile Coverage to 250000 Rural UK Residents UPDATE

Monday, October 29th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 3,103

Mobile operator O2 (Telefonica) has announced that they will invest in a further expansion of their 4G (Mobile Broadband) network coverage to reach 339 extra rural communities (defined as an area with a population of 100+) across the United Kingdom by the end of 2018, which could benefit 250,000 residents.

As part of the announcement, which is expected to benefit locations from Drumoak to Lizard, O2 has also commissioned and published some new independent research from Development Economics to explore the potential economic impact of 4G connectivity on rural businesses.

The aforementioned report found that rural businesses could receive an overall revenue boost of up to £141m driven by the implementation of 4G, representing a potential £45m boost to the UK economy and boost to underlying employment growth of 31%. As usual quantifying such things is notoriously difficult and thus such estimates should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

Derek McManus, COO at Telefonica UK, said:

“We know mobile has the power to make a real, positive difference to people’s lives and businesses in rural communities across Britain. That’s why we’re proud to be investing in 4G connectivity for more than 330 rural areas by the end of this year.

Technology never stands still, which is why we are always looking for the right partners and investing in our future network. Whether trialling 5G to support a future-proof, mobile Britain, or ensuring the remotest parts of rural Britain can connect to 4G, for O2, this is about continuing to invest in all areas – not one at the cost of the other.”

Margot James, UK Digital Minister, said:

“4G coverage is improving all the time, but there’s more to do, particularly in rural areas. We’ve already reformed planning laws to make it easier and cheaper to install and upgrade digital infrastructure, and it’s great to see O2 and the rest of industry responding to ensure more people in rural Britain can share the brilliant benefits of 4G connectivity.”

Unfortunately today’s announcement doesn’t tell us what kind of % UK coverage improvement this expansion will deliver for their 4G network or whether the areas they intend to target are already being served by other operators (e.g. EE, Vodafone or Three UK). Likewise it’s unclear whether they are using a specific radio spectrum band (800MHz, 900MHz, 2.3GHz etc.) or if it’s the usual mixture of bands.

A nice list of the communities they intend to target would have been most helpful, but alas mobile operators rarely share such detailed plans in public (commercial sensitivities etc.). So while this is welcome news, it’s sadly also quite difficult to judge what kind of difference it will make versus the work currently being done by other operators.

We note that the new rural rollout is said to be part of O2’s existing commitment to delivering the “best mobile experience” for its customers. The operator said they are investing over £2m per day to maintain and improve their network. Earlier this year, Ofcom confirmed that O2 had also delivered against its commitment to providing 98% indoor 4G coverage and 90% geographical landmass mass coverage across the UK.

By comparison EE has also achieved similar coverage figures and they’re now aiming to reach 95% of the UK’s landmass by December 2020. Eventually we expect all of the primary MNOs to reach a similar level.

UPDATE 11:09am

We’ve been told that O2 will deploy the 800MHz band to each of the rural communities benefiting from this announcement, which makes sense given the coverage benefits vs cost and they’ll probably also be able to harness Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE).

UPDATE 12:21pm

O2 has kindly offered up a regional breakdown of their deployment plan.

Region/country Number of communities 2011 Population
East 24 20,979
East Midlands 35 26,830
North West 31 14,035
South East 29 17,057
South West 98 76,684
West Midlands 46 26,438
Yorkshire 10 7,204
Wales 57 33,344
Scotland 42 24,033
Northern Ireland 1 279
Total 339 246,883

Leave a Comment
18 Responses
  1. Tim says:

    O2 is already one of the best for coverage, especially indoors and rural. The biggest issues for O2 is their capacity, speed and usage allowance.

  2. Mark says:

    Well, O2 are full of it. In my area their 4G used to be better then it is these days, it was one of the reasons I went with Tesco Mobile. But now it’s signal can be sporadic and weak.
    And yet I tested EE 2 weeks ago and they can provide a solid 2 bar consistent 4G signal, when they used to have none, it’s just a shame they put their prices up every year mid contract…

    1. gerarda says:

      I have the same issue. Reasonable signal when I took out the contract. Now often no signal whatsoever even outside despite lots of pestering to get them to reinstate the previous level. Of course both their coverage checker and Ofcom’s state good signal.

    2. Alex Bristol says:

      Gerarda, see [https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/10/ofcom-probe-ee-and-vodafone-for-rural-uk-mobile-coverage-errors.html] I would drop Ofcom an email ‘contact@ofcom.org.uk’ and mark it for ‘the team dealing with mobile coverage errors’ and include the ISPReview 02/10/2018 link, include your postcode briefly explaining the map coverage errors.

      The same for anyone else who spots coverage map errors.

  3. Mike says:

    Pretty sure ADSL on a long line is faster than O2’s 4G.

    1. Tim says:

      It’s close here

      ADSL = 4.99Mbps down 0.93Mbps up
      O2 4G = 8.98Mbps down and 0.75Mbps up

      Both are pathetic!

  4. Rob says:

    I wonder if this cones under Beacon or pure O2?

  5. Vince says:

    O2 is the worst network by far for me wherever I go – it falls back to 2G or 3G way too often, and even when you have 4G the throughput it woeful – I’ve moaned at them over and over that I can’t even stream YouTube in 720p in many areas without a problem unless it’s the middle of the night – they’re really hampered by limited spectrum and overall capacity deficit.

  6. Mark Edwards says:

    Why in abroad always getting full bar signal than UK? Is there something wrong with UK?

    1. Mike says:

      What network are you on here?

  7. Stephen says:

    I’m gutted that O2 planned to build a mast near my rural home in Netherley, Aberdeenshire but then cancelled it.
    Back in October 2015 a planning application was approved to build a nice new mast which would have line of sight to my house & a good number of other houses. However, the mast was never built and despite many attempts to get an update from CTIL, I cannot find out any new information.
    It’s a shame it was never built as it would have been right on the edge of the new Aberdeen bypass which is due to open any day now. So it would have served a local community hidden by surrounding hills plus a new bypass.

  8. 5G Infinity says:

    I don’t see how O2 can deliver to 339 new rural communities by end 2018. Surely that must be existing rural communities and they will ‘improve coverage’ Out of that number how many new towers or monopoles, or will they just add another radio to an existing tower and just light up some more spectrum (as suggested above). If they added 800MHz plus 2 x CA to all those locations that would make a difference for all those with Category 9 or better handsets – should all be able to get 40Mbps+.

    As for indoors, not so convinced – where I am there is no indoor 2G or 3G let alone 4G, 4G means driving 1.8 miles to adjacent village. Asked whether o2 would put up new tower – answer no – did offer to supply them with signal measurements to help the business case, they said they didn’t need them.

  9. Misty88 says:

    Network not working properly in my area and 02 still haven’t fixed it

  10. Paul says:

    It appears the single Northern Ireland village getting the upgrade is Clough.
    Source: http://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.uk/Download/Census%202011/Headcount%20and%20Household%20Estimates%20for%20Settlements.ods

  11. Mark says:

    Hmmm well that updated list is pretty useless, I live in the South West, but what areas are covered? Dorset, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall?? Not very explicit is it.

    1. ChrisD says:

      At least England is broken down by region, it really annoys me when they just say “Scotland” or “Wales”

  12. Mark says:

    Cotswold area full of nimbys, so I suspect it will be hit and miss, my town/area population 4000 has only 2G and all planning rejected due to objections and ANOB.

    1. Tim says:

      Did you mean AONB?

      But they are a nob too. Lol

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