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O2 UK Delivers 100th 4G Mobile Mast for Shared Rural Network

Tuesday, Feb 13th, 2024 (3:01 pm) - Score 2,400

Mobile operator O2 (VMO2) has today hit a key milestone after they rolled out enhanced 4G (mobile broadband) coverage across 100 rural sites as part of their commitment under the £1bn industry-led Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme, which aims to extend geographic 4G cover (aggregate) to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025.

The SRN – supported by £500m of public funding and £532m from operators – involves both the reciprocal sharing of existing UK masts in certain areas and the demand-led building and sharing of new masts in others between the operators (MNO). But the 95% figure is only when the service is available from at least one operator, while the UK coverage forecast for SRN completion for all operators is actually just 84% for the same date (i.e. geographic areas where you’ll be able to take 4G from all providers).

NOTE: The SRN target varies between regions, thus 4G cover from at least one operator is expected to reach 98% in England, 91% in Scotland, 95% in Wales and 98% in N.Ireland. But this falls to 90% in England, 74% in Scotland, 80% in Wales and 85% in N.Ireland when looking at coverage from all MNOs combined.

In terms of O2’s 100th SRN site, this was deployed on the remote Isle of Sky in Scotland, which required a helicopter to lift and drop the new 4G mast into place on the island (they’ve had to do this a few times for remote areas). Of the 100 rural sites that have been built or upgraded by O2 so far, 78 are in some of the most remote parts of Scotland, while 19 are in rural parts of England and 3 are in Northern Ireland.

Both Three UK and Vodafone also benefit from access to these new sites, which is a reciprocal arrangement. Taking into account the progress of Three UK and Vodafone’s own deployments, O2’s customers can now benefit from better 4G services at a total of 146 rural locations due to the SRN and this continues to rise.

Jeanie York, CTO of Virgin Media O2, said:

“We’re going to extreme lengths connecting the most remote corners of the UK to deliver our share of the Shared Rural Network.

This investment is vital to ensure we provide fast and reliable coverage to all areas of the UK. With so much of our modern life taking place online, rural communities deserve the same standard of mobile connectivity as those in urban areas, and we’re proud to be stepping up and playing our part.

The 100 sites we have delivered will mean that more residents, businesses and visitors in rural areas can benefit from better mobile coverage, with more locations to follow in the coming months. This work is vital in tackling the urban-rural digital divide that exists in the UK.”

Take note that the SRN target varies between different parts of the UK. For example, 4G coverage from at least one MNO is expected to reach 98% in England, 91% in Scotland, 95% in Wales and 98% in Northern Ireland. But this falls to 90% in England, 74% in Scotland, 80% in Wales and 85% in Northern Ireland when looking at 4G coverage from all MNOs combined.

Despite all the talk of 2025 being the main goal, Ofcom’s final deadline for improvements in “total not-spot areas” is actually set for early 2027. But today’s news comes as O2, Vodafone and Three UK are facing criticism from politicians and the media for allegedly falling significantly behind on their commitment to complete SRN upgrades in partial not-spot areas (first SRN phase) by June 2024 (here).

By comparison, EE (BT) has been able to boast about achieving the June 2024 target some 6 months ahead of schedule (here).

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Guy Cashmore says:

    In most of Devon SRN doesn’t need many new sites, it needs the S in SRN applying to the existing sites! Simply isn’t happening though..

  2. Avatar photo Warren says:

    I must be in the last 2% can’t even get a signal in my local Sainsbury’s

    1. Avatar photo Sid says:

      Just use the free WiFi in the store

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      That’s exactly why we pay for mobile service, Sid. To manually connect, often only after creating an account and agreeing to bad terms of service, to free WiFi networks!


  3. Avatar photo Billy Shears says:

    Surely Skye? Or is there another one?

  4. Avatar photo Sid says:

    No mobile provider will give you 100% service it’s in the terms and conditions ,more important things in life to worry and complain about ,that’s why all Sainsbury and majorty off stores have free WiFi so you can get service

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      There’s always something more important to complain about, but the subject here is mobile coverage.

      I don’t expect coverage everywhere especially inside “difficult” buildings, but let’s not dismiss complains about bad coverage in areas people go to. “Just use free WiFi” when your phone doesn’t connect to them automatically and when some providers still don’t support WiFi calling for calls and text is not acceptable.

      I’d be very happy if my phone started connecting to those WiFi networks automatically and could make calls/texts/use the internet. But this doesn’t happen, so I can’t be happy if I have to go around looking for WiFi networks, creating accounts, etc, just to remediate a problem that shouldn’t exist and is not mine to fix.

    2. Avatar photo Elixier22 says:

      China has near enough 100% coverage in that country are honestly I’m not kidding I’m not saying I like the country I’m not saying anything about it we could go into that talk about that all day but their phone network is exceptional you literally can’t go out of coverage anywhere. If China can do it of all places then we can do it in the UK supposedly.

  5. Avatar photo Red says:

    To use free O2 WiFi in a Sainsburys store you need to get a text message for the password. Many stores have signal outside, and nothing indoors due to the store construction. Would be better for Sainsburys to put a shared, neutral, DAS in their stores!

    1. Avatar photo Gigabit says:

      They have a DAS for O2 in certain stores and O2 small cells outside for others.

      The other MNOs seem scared of small cells.

    2. Avatar photo Guy Cashmore says:

      It’s odd how only O2 seem to embrace small cells, I installed one for our 6 house rural hamlet, can’t get anything from the other networks though.

    3. Avatar photo Phil Cecchini says:

      No O2 mobile coverage within the major shopping centre in Leicester the O2 store does have WiFi, but no signal booster, and the out of town one at Fosse Park is totally overwhelmed and congested when its moderately busy.
      The O2 status says they know its gets busy in the area, and engineers are “looking into it”.
      Ideal candidates for some small cell capacity installations….

  6. Avatar photo ToneDeaf says:

    One of the original H&I 2G project cabins from the early’90s (Cellnet & Vodafone shared tower & cabin) withstanding the elements after all this time aided by some gaffa tape along the bottom.

  7. Avatar photo Elixier22 says:

    O2 on the slowest worst-covered network of all and coming from BT cellet which used to be outright the best hands down it’s amazing how little investment O2 have put into their network. My how the mighty have fallen.

Comments are closed

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