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EE, O2, Three UK and Vodafone Sign Deal to Fix Mobile Notspots

Thursday, March 11th, 2021 (5:29 pm) - Score 11,856
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The Government has confirmed that EE (BT), O2, Three UK and Vodafone yesterday signed a “key agreement” as part of the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) project, which sets out a contract for how the four operators will work together to build new sites that deliver 4G based mobile broadband coverage across “total not spots.”

The SRN is an industry-led scheme – supported by a public investment of £500m and £530m from operators – that aims to help extend geographic 4G coverage to 95% of the UK the end of 2025 (it may also help the 5G rollout). 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 operators.

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 and in February 2021 it was announced that O2, Vodafone and Three UK had reached an agreement to both build and share 222 new 4G mobile masts as part of the first SRN phase (here).

Shortly after that EE unveiled their own phase one work to tackle “partial not-spots” (here), which will see their 4G coverage being expanded across 579 rural areas during 2021 (333 in England, 132 in Scotland, 76 in Wales, and 38 in Northern Ireland). This includes the 110 areas that EE has already upgraded since the SRN deal was signed.

However, yesterday’s agreement between all four operators should enable the SRN programme to progress. In response, the Government has today published their transparency notice for the SRN programme, which means they can also proceed with their £500m investment to “provide all corners of the UK with better mobile connectivity.”

Matt Warman, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“The Shared Rural Network is a key part of the government’s infrastructure revolution to level up and unlock new economic opportunities in every corner of the UK.

Mobile firms are making great progress boosting 4G services in countryside communities as part of their side of this landmark agreement.

With the publication of this notice, we shall now push on with making patchy or poor coverage a thing of the past as we build back better from the pandemic.”

In the past almost every new programme of rural mast building that we’ve ever seen has tended to run into some problems with cost, supply (power, fibre etc.), access (wayleaves) and / or 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.

The SRN is being overseen by a jointly owned company called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL).

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Mark Jackson
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.
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21 Responses
  1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    “However, yesterday’s agreement between all four operators should enable the SRN programme to progress.” If the CWU ballots for strike action it won’t.

    1. Avatar 125us says:

      Why not? How would industrial action amongst BT technicians affect mast sharing by other companies?

  2. Avatar Paul says:

    Does this also account for urban areas where only outdoor coverage is currently the case or just areas that have no 4G altogether?

    Some built up areas need a boost to! The sharing of masts could help here where for example O2 are robust but EE isn’t and so on.

    1. Avatar Bubbles says:

      Tell EE that their network is crap and they’ll tell you white is black. They think they are invincible and no one is better than them.

    2. Avatar Darren says:

      O2 or Vodafone for better indoor coverage in my experience

  3. Avatar Mark says:

    What about Conservation areas, AONB and where people have campaigned for years to prevent masts? And if the Landowners are on the side of the objectors and won’t allow them on their land, then all this is nonsense. Still I’m looking forward to the plans being thrown out in this area, like they’ve been for the last 20 years. A lot of planning applications have been thrown out by Stroud District Council here because of the Cotswolds AONB, Not that I’m a Nimby, would like good coverage, but sadly the objectors will win out and this will be all hot air!

    1. Avatar JP says:

      I think operators in these cases need to think about try hiding the masts like here https://www.ispreview.co.uk/talk/attachments/telus-tree-canmore-jpg.908/

      I’ve used this tree and it was awesome coverage and speeds.

  4. Avatar Mark says:

    Won’t work here they don’t want the masts. Take a look at the reasons in this petition, nothing really about the looks, its health reasons. So the networks don’t stand a chance here.

    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-mast?share=aa0939b2-f8a0-4dd5-bfae-4599fc42b5e0&source=email-share-button&utm_medium=socialshare&utm_source=email

    1. Avatar JP says:

      I’m not even going to bother reading that crap, straight away there is a miss-representation of a mast, however if masts where this big and tall coverage wouldn’t be an issue in many places.

  5. Avatar M says:

    So they are going to spend 1 billion of tax payers money to install now old technology when new technology is now being deployed elsewhere? Have I read this right?
    Typical, I presume they’ll spend another billion plus in 5 years to roll our 5G.

    1. Avatar M says:

      Sorry they’ll be sending 500 million of the public’s money.

    2. Avatar Connor says:

      The expensive bit is getting the towers erected, the mains feeds in and the fibre dicting to the cabinets

      To upgrade a site from 4G to 5G to 6G is fairly trivial further down the line. Most people have 4G handsets and that won’t change soon. Deployment of 4G is the quickest way to benefit as many people as quickly as possible

      Plus in most cases 5G is operating in NSA mode which is non standalone. This means that it needs the 4G base layer to work so it’s not just as simple as saying rolling out 4G is pointless because it’s not the current best of the best.

  6. Avatar Dean Mitch says:

    02 is garbage. I tried it where I live and I got literally a 3G signal but never loaded. Even on 4g signal it didn’t load a page. So I ring them and they kept resetting the sim or something. After 5 times I gave up

    EE and three work though
    SO I presume ee and three use the same towers because I got the same performance
    But o2 No
    And Vodafone exact same issue

    Funny how Vodafone and o2 website said on the coverage they were the best and fastest and ee n three didn’t

    Yet they are fast and the others didn’t load AT ALL

    Customer support for Vodafone is a joke absolute joke

    O2 I didn’t give it a chance I just send it back as soon as it had the same problem

    So basically

    EE and THREE are the best

    Three is better than EE because I always get a better signal than everyone else using EE or that could be the phone because it seems they use same towers

    1. Avatar Michael V says:

      @Dean. Three & EE do share sites. Most of them anyway. They been sharing for some years.
      Vodafone & O2 share sites also.

      However they all got their own methods of measuring for signal levels needed for an area [anyone correct me if I’m wrong]

      For me where I live & travel Three is great. Never without signal now. I’ve seen it improve a lot over the last year.

    2. Avatar Stephen says:

      They are the best for you. In my area o2 gives the strongest indoor signal, closely followed by Vodafone. Walk half a mile down the road and EE is the best all round. It’s horses for courses and your signal strength at home and work, data speed etc all come into the equation

  7. Avatar Anonymous says:

    5G handsets SIM Free are now below £199 on offers regularly (Xiaomi 10T Lite) and are very good specs like 120hz screen refresh rate, microSD storage capable and cover all UK frequency bands. Only going to be more on board soon.

    Waste of time doing 4G, should be 5G in these places which would help with rural broadband too.

    1. Avatar Joe bloggs says:

      I got my 5g handset from Carphone warehouse for £250 no need to buy a flagship £1000 phone a 250 quid 5g handset is just as good as a expensive hanset

  8. Avatar Dennis M V Tweed says:

    This means bigger profits for the share holders. Not a improve service network for the customer.
    Just give us more of your money if you need a network service.

  9. Avatar Dennis M V Tweed says:

    At this moment in time the VODAFONE network services has multiple service network problems. So they cover it up by blaming the customer not paying for the data and calling credit. They want you to pay by credit card not with top-up voucher’s. If you give them a credit card number they can take your money any time they like.

  10. Avatar Anna says:

    Thanks Three but I would rather have a nospot than your rubbish service for £16 a month.

  11. Avatar Daryl says:

    Maybe one day I will actually get 2g in my house, not just on the garage roof

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