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EE UK Set to Expand 4G Mobile Cover to 579 Rural Areas in 2021

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021 (9:25 am) - Score 4,584
ee mobile mast tower in scotland

Mobile operator EE (BT) has today announced that, as part of the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) industry project, they will expand their 4G (mobile broadband) network in 579 rural areas during 2021 in order to improve signal coverage (333 in England, 132 in Scotland, 76 in Wales, and 38 in Northern Ireland).

The SRN is an industry-led scheme – supported by a public investment of £500m – that aims to help extend geographic 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2026 (it may also help the 5G rollout too). The scheme essentially involves both the reciprocal sharing of existing masts in certain areas and the demand-led building and sharing of new masts in others between the four operators (Vodafone, Three UK, EE [BT] and O2).

NOTE: The SRN further states that it will aim to provide guaranteed coverage to an additional 280,000 UK premises, 16,000km of roads and boost ‘in car’ coverage on around 45,000 km of road, as well as better indoor coverage for around 1.2 million business premises and homes.

The formal SRN agreement was officially signed off last March 2020, although progress had been slow until last month’s big announcement (here) by O2, Vodafone and Three UK (i.e. the operators agreed to both build and share 222 new 4G mobile masts as part of the first SRN phase).

Similarly, the upgrades announced today by EE also fall under the first phase of the SRN, where the operator will invest to significantly reduce “partial not-spots” by 2024. EE has already upgraded its 4G network in 110 areas since the SRN deal was signed and a further 469 upgrades will now follow by the end of 2021 (total of 579).

The aforementioned work includes an extension of coverage in rural areas that experience high summer demand, including all 15 of Great Britain’s National Parks (e.g. Snowdonia and the Lake District, as well as coastal locations and roads). EE’s 4G network now covers 94% of roads in Great Britain.

The 15 National Parks in Great Britain


  • Broads
  • Dartmoor
  • Exmoor
  • Lake District
  • New Forest
  • North York Moors
  • Northumberland
  • Peak District
  • South Downs
  • Yorkshire Dales


  • Cairngorms
  • Loch Lomond & The Trossachs


  • Brecon Beacons
  • Pembrokeshire Coast
  • Snowdonia

Sadly we don’t get a solid list of all the other areas that will benefit, although EE has included a map (see below) that may offer some assistance, even if it is a bit of a ‘guess the actual location’ game from all the dots.

Philip Jansen, CEO of BT Group, said:

“Reliable connectivity is important wherever you live, work or travel, and we’re committed to improving and adding coverage to even the most remote areas. The investment BT has made in rural areas to date means we already have the infrastructure in place needed to extend our 4G coverage footprint further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build. There are many places where EE is the only provider with 4G coverage today, offering the other operators an opportunity to share our existing sites to plug gaps in their networks and improve mobile performance for everyone.”

Matt Warman, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“I’m delighted to see the great strides EE is making to boost 4G services in countryside communities as part of the Shared Rural Network agreement, which was brokered and is part funded by the government.

We’re investing half a billion pounds in this landmark deal to extend mobile coverage to 95 per cent of the UK and it will help us build back better from the pandemic.”

In the past almost every new programme of rural mast building that we’ve ever seen has run into some problems with cost, supply (power, fibre etc.), access (wayleaves) and local opposition to related planning applications for new infrastructure.

Many rural communities tend to cry out for mobile improvements, but at the same time not everybody wants to “see” the masts that need to be built. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other. But some of these problems may well be tackled through the Government’s Mobile Planning Reforms.


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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Michael V says:

    The SRN agreement mentioned 11 here in Wales.
    EE are clearly making more of an effort with their 76 sites.
    Good to see they are getting involved with the SRN.

    1. Bubbles says:

      Albeit in their own way. Its crappy EE what do you expect. They will then put the prices up.

    2. Mike says:


      EE is a premium provider, they aren’t for the rabble.

    3. Michael V says:

      @mike? Rabble?!! One network isn’t more premium than another. There’s plenty of places where EE coverage & speeds are poor. They all have their disadvantages.
      Personally for me. Three are a much better experience. Especially where I previously lived.

  2. Sam says:

    Hopefully they will roll out more low frequencies maybe? My signal is dire I’m right in the the middle of the south downs

    1. Mike says:

      Are you on an Essentials plan? You need a Smart plan to get the lower frequencies.

  3. James says:

    Internet connectivity will be faster on Exmoor than ot is in my house!

  4. Daniel Sullivan says:

    Mark are you able to get a list of sites to be upgraded in England? I’ve seen online that the Welsh locations have been announced.

  5. Larry says:

    We live in one of the villages listed in an article about this in the Hampshire Chronicle on 4/3/21 do you have any ideas on who I can contact in EE to find out where the new mast will be sited and when it may happen?

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