EE expands 4G coverage across rural areas

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EE is to extend 4G coverage in more than 500 remote parts of the UK as part of its commitments to the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme.

A deal was struck last year between the government and the four main operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – to build new sites and share infrastructure in areas in the country that don’t have access to all four networks.

Operators will invest £530 million to open up and share their infrastructure and pay each other a fee for access. The government will then provide up to £500 million to build new masts in ‘total not spots’ where there is no 4G coverage from any operator. The aim is to reach 95% of the UK landmass by 2025.

Shared Rural Network 4G

Earlier this year, O2, Three and Vodafone announced they were building 200 new 4G masts to support the SRN but EE, with the country’s largest 4G footprint, was able to fulfil its first phase commitments through site upgrades.

EE has already expanded coverage in 100 locations and will cover a further 469 by the end of 2021. All 15 British national parks will be covered, as will coastal areas and roads. All sites will be made available to the other major UK operators through the SRN.

“Reliable connectivity is important wherever you live, work or travel, and we’re committed to improving and adding coverage to even the most remote areas,” said BT CEO Philip Jansen. “The investment BT has made in rural areas to date means we already have the infrastructure in place needed to extend our 4G coverage footprint further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build.

“There are many places where EE is the only provider with 4G coverage today, offering the other operators an opportunity to share our existing sites to plug gaps in their networks and improve mobile performance for everyone.”

SRN commitments are subject to oversight from Ofcom, which will have the power to issue fines of up to 10 per cent of an operator’s gross revenue if they fail to meet their targets.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.