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EE promises to light up more rural not-spots with 4G expansion

SRN rural mast

Leading operator EE says it will expand 4G to an additional 1532 rural areas by 2024 as part of the Shared Rural Network programme.

EE says it has upgraded 853 rural areas with 4G since the Shared Rural Network deal was signed in March 2020 – 449 in England, 265 in Scotland, 97 in Wales, and 42 in Northern Ireland.

With today’s pledge of a further 1532 upgrades, the total number of rural areas it has promised to reduce ‘partial not-spots’ in by 2024 now stands at 2385 (925 in England, 359 in Scotland, 125 in Northern Ireland, and 123 in Wales).

All sites are available for other operators to share under the SRN scheme, an agreement between the UK’s four mobile network operators and the Government to extend 4G coverage to 95 percent of the UK. EE’s slate of upgrades is part of ‘phase one’ of the programme.

“Today we’ve made a renewed commitment to boost rural connectivity, helping improve mobile performance regardless of location,” said Philip Jansen, Chief Executive of BT Group. “The investment BT has made in rural areas means we have the infrastructure in place to extend our 4G coverage footprint even further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build to ensure everyone has access to reliable connectivity. EE is still the only provider of 4G coverage in many places across the UK, and we encourage other operators to recognise the opportunity sharing our sites offers to fill gaps in their networks.”

Meanwhile the government chipped in through Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez: “We know the incredible impact better connectivity will have on countryside communities. That’s why we struck a £1 billion deal, jointly funded by the government and mobile firms, to bring fast and reliable 4G mobile coverage to 95 per cent of the UK,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez. “EE’s plans show good progress and will increase choice for consumers and boost productivity in rural areas. We will continue to work closely with them to close down further gaps in rural mobile signal.”

The SRN initiative represents a £1 billion project funded by the state and operators to tackle partial not-spots, or areas in which there is coverage from at least one but not all network operators.

It appears EE is now largely taking the lead on actioning what has been talked about for quite some time. The interesting thing about this is that the operator seemed to have largely ruled itself out from phase one when the scheme first emerged.

A combination of factors could have prompted this turnaround, but we can perhaps speculate that the level to which telecoms is currently politized, and the government’s heavy involvement in this scheme (to the point which a minister is quoted in EE’s press release) may have flavoured the boardroom discussions.

 


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