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HomeNews£1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) deal agreed

£1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) deal agreed

Ministers and bosses from mobile network operators will meet this afternoon to sign a £1 billion deal to make poor and patchy rural phone coverage a thing of the past to take 4G coverage across the UK to 95% by 2025..

The world-first deal will be a huge boost for people across the country in rural areas and will deliver strong 4G coverage irrespective of what network provider people use.

The ambition is to make sure everyone can benefit from fast services on the go – from those running small businesses to people shopping or booking travel online to speaking to friends and family. It will spur economic growth and close the digital divide across the country through better connectivity.

Shared Rural Network

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) is a deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone investing in a network of new and existing phone masts, overseen by a jointly owned company called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited, they would all share.

It will provide guaranteed coverage to 280,000 premises and 16,000km of roads. We can also expect some further indirect improvements over time, including a boost to ‘in car’ coverage on around 45,000 km of road and better indoor coverage in around 1.2m business premises and homes.

The deal will lead to increases in coverage in some areas by more than a third, with the biggest coverage improvements in rural parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

It means all four mobile network operators will deliver 95 per cent combined coverage across the whole of the UK by the end of 2025 and consumers can rely on their own provider’s network wherever they are.

It follows moves by the government to improve digital infrastructure by making it easier and cheaper for the private sector to deploy faster broadband to the most commercial areas of the country, new legislation to make it easier for telecoms firms to connect blocks of flats, and plans to mandate gigabit-capable connectivity in new build premises.

Government investment in mobile and broadband

The government has also pledged £5 billion to subsidise the roll out of gigabit capable broadband in the harder-to-reach areas of the country.

Strong competition promotes industry investment in mobile coverage in dense urban areas, but rural areas have fewer potential customers and have not seen the level of investment needed to provide good coverage.

The new deal means the four networks have committed to legally binding contracts and investing £532m to close almost all partial not-spots: areas where there is currently only coverage from at least one but not all operators.

This investment will then be backed by more than £500 million of government funding to eliminate total not-spots: hard-to-reach areas where there is currently no coverage from any operator. This will provide new digital infrastructure in total not spot areas not commercially viable for the operators.

The legally binding coverage commitments will be enforced by Ofcom which will have the power to issue fines up to 10 per cent of an operator’s gross revenue if they fail to meet their targets.

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