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Gov Updates on UK 4G Shared Rural Network Rollout Progress

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 2,160
ee 4g mast in a rural uk field

The UK Government has today published somewhat of a progress update on their £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) project, which reveals that Scotland, Wales and North East England will benefit most from the expansion of 4G based mobile network (mobile broadband) coverage into rural areas.

Just to recap. 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 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 premises.

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 Phase One of that work (here).

Soon 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). EE informed us today that they’ve already completed 334 of those upgrades (76 in Scotland, 49 in Wales, 171 in England and 38 in N.Ireland).

The big change today is that the project is set to publish new maps and figures, which reveals how much mobile coverage will increase in each region of the UK once the SRN is completed. The new data shows that the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Mid and West Wales and the North East of England will see the largest increases in 4G signal. See the bottom of this article for a summary.

On top of that the government will today launch a new consultation with the telecoms industry to identify any existing infrastructure which can be utilised to end total not spots. It wants to reduce the need to build new phone masts and help make sure public funds are used effectively.

Oliver Dowden MP, UK Digital Secretary, said:

“We’re putting connecting people across the UK at the heart of our plan to build back better, through huge uplifts to mobile coverage in rural areas and the rapid rollout of gigabit broadband. .

Today’s announcements will improve the lives of millions of people in rural parts of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, giving them the connections they need to work, access services and keep in touch – both at home and on the go.”

Hamish MacLeod, Director at Mobile UK, said:

“The Shared Rural Network is a transformational project backed by a half a billion-pound investment from the mobile operators to extend coverage in rural areas across the country. Mobile operators have already started to deliver on this commitment, with new sites coming online in partial coverage areas. We are committed to providing a reliable 4G mobile signal to 95% of the UK’s landmass and improving the experience for people living, working and travelling in rural areas.”

The new stats released today confirm that Scotland will benefit the most of the four home nations, with coverage from all four MNOs to be delivered to three quarters (74%) of the country’s landmass by the end of the programme – an increase of two thirds (up from 42% currently). Wales will see the next highest increase – with coverage from all four operators across its geographic areas increasing from 58% to 80%.

Next, Northern Ireland will see 4G from all four MNOs rise to 85% of its landmass (up from 79% in 2020), while the North East of England will see total 4G coverage jump from 68% to 86%. All of this is being supported by the Government’s Mobile Planning Reforms in England, while Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland will have to set their own rules.

SRN Impact on UK 4G Coverage

 

4G Coverage from at least one MNO pre-SRN

4G Coverage from at least one MNO by the end of programme

4G coverage from all MNOs pre-SRN

4G coverage from all MNOs by the end of the programme

Overall 

91%

95%

69%

84%

England

97%

98%

84%

90%

Scotland

81%

91%

44%

74%

Wales

90%

95%

60%

80%

Northern Ireland

97%

98%

79%

85%

SRN Impact on England’s 4G Coverage

 

Coverage from all MNOs

Coverage from at least one MNO

Region

Pre-SRN

post-SRN

Pre-SRN

post-SRN

East Midlands

90%

94%

99%

99%

East of England

90%

93%

99%

99%

North East

68%

86%

91%

98%

North West

73%

88%

94%

98%

South East

85%

91%

99%

99%

South West

75%

87%

97%

99%

West Midlands

78%

92%

99%

99%

Yorkshire and The Humber

81%

90%

95%

99%

SRN Impact on Scotland’s 4G Coverage

 

Coverage from all MNOs

Coverage from at least one MNO

Electoral Region

Pre-SRN

post-SRN

Pre-SRN

post-SRN

Central Scotland

87%

92%

99%

99%

Highlands and Islands 

26%

68%

73%

91%

Lothian 

88%

94%

99%

99%

Mid Scotland and Fife 

53%

78%

80%

93%

North East Scotland 

59%

79%

86%

94%

South Scotland 

55%

81%

88%

97%

West Scotland 

59%

82%

91%

98%

SRN Impact on Wales’ 4G Coverage

 

Coverage from all MNOs

Coverage from at least one MNO

Senedd Region

Pre-SRN

post-SRN

Pre-SRN

post-SRN

Mid and West Wales

51%

78%

86%

97%

North Wales

63%

83%

93%

98%

South Wales Central

82%

90%

98%

99%

South Wales East

71%

89%

95%

99%

South Wales West

79%

88%

97%

99%

SRN Impact on N.Ireland 4G Coverage

 

Coverage from all MNOs

Coverage from at least one MNO

Region (Local Authority)

Pre-SRN

post-SRN

Pre-SRN

post-SRN

Antrim and Newtownabbey

86%

94%

99%

99%

Ards and North Down

85%

99%

99%

99%

Armagh City, Banbridge and Cra

82%

93%

99%

99%

Causeway Coast and Glens

77%

87%

96%

99%

Derry City and Strabane

61%

76%

92%

97%

Fermanagh and Omagh

71%

79%

96%

98%

Lisburn and Castlereagh

88%

96%

99%

99%

Mid Ulster

73%

87%

99%

99%

Mid and East Antrim

81%

88%

98%

98%

Newry, Mourne and Down

67%

80%

94%

98%

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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
6 Responses
  1. Gigabit says:

    When will we be able to see more details of where the masts are going to go?

    1. Ben says:

      +1 – I’d love to see a list of both the new SRN masts and EE’s new masts 🙂

  2. Mark says:

    Well with the current hostility in this area of the Cotswolds will be in the 1% who don’t get it.

    1. Ryan says:

      The issue with that area a number of people are in my backyard for any new masts group.

      What also funny is the same group of people are the first to moan with poor reception.

    2. Ryan says:

      Not in my backyard i mean

  3. Mark says:

    All subject to planning, locations, power etc. So the figure will be less I suspect,I see my area seems to be 4G from all networks, not a chance. Planning and opposition will stop that.

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