VMO2 has eliminated 50 ‘not spots’ in rural UK

Telecommunication tower on the field against the sky

A village in the Scottish Highlands called Helmsdale became the 50th rural site to be plugged into the VMO2 4G network following a campaign of mast upgrades.

The upgrades are part of ‘The Shared Rural Network’, a scheme being carried out by all the UK operators (VMO2, EE, Three and Vodafone) backed with Government cash, with the mission of improving rural connectivity – in other words getting rid of countryside not spots.

For its part VMO2 has brought 50 rural sites into the light so far, 39 are in remote parts of Scotland – including 10 in the Argyll and Bute region – while 11 are in eastern parts of England, including rural parts of Yorkshire, Suffolk and Kent.

In addition to the 50 sites that are now able to slurp up decent voice and data connectivity, the operator has secured planning consent for a further 100 sites, and we’re told work can start at those in the near future.

“We are investing heavily in our network to ensure we’re offering fast and reliable mobile coverage to customers in all parts of the UK,” said Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at VMO2. “We know many rural communities are unable to access the same level of connectivity as urban areas so we’re committed to delivering improvements through the Shared Rural Network programme.

“Boosting connectivity at 50 sites is a real milestone and means more residents, businesses and tourists in rural areas can benefit from better mobile coverage. In the weeks and months ahead we’ll continue pushing forward with our rural investments, building new masts and upgrading existing ones across various remote UK locations as we work to tackle the urban-rural digital divide.”

John Whittingdale, Minister of State for Digital Infrastructure, added: “By providing fast and reliable 4G coverage through our joint £1 billion Shared Rural Network programme, Virgin Media O2 is providing rural businesses and homes with new opportunities in the digital age and supporting economic growth across the UK – a top priority for the Prime Minister. I look forward to further progress in connecting the most remote areas of the UK, and ensuring everyone has the mobile signal they need to work, shop or stay in touch with family and friends.”

The Shared Rural Network’ was announced in 2020 and involved the four UK operators pledge to invest £532m to stamp out the majority of ‘partial not-spots’ – which it defines as areas which receive coverage from at least one, but not all, operators. The UK Government promised to throw another £500m in the pot to build new masts to get rid of ‘total not-spots’ – out of the way places where there is currently no coverage at all. The overall target of the project is to extend 4G coverage to 95% of the UK landmass by 2025.

Earlier this year Vodafone said it had hooked up 57 rural locations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland under the scheme, and last month EE said it had managed a rather more impressive 1,500 remote sites. EE told at the time of reporting that the figure was “up to 30x more than other MNOs.”


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