Government to release £500m SRN funding to improve rural mobile coverage

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The government is set to release £500 million in funding for new mobile masts in rural parts of the UK its commitments to the Shared Rural Network (SRN)

A deal was struck last year between the government and the country’s four major 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.

Shared Rural Network 4G

Meanwhile, the government promised to 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.

Now that the operators have all taken steps to fulfil their commitments, the government is following suit. The publication of its transparency notice paves the way for the funding to be made available.

“The Shared Rural Network is a key part of the government’s infrastructure revolution to level up and unlock new economic opportunities in every corner of the UK,” said Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman.

“Mobile firms are making great progress boosting 4G services in countryside communities as part of their side of this landmark agreement. With the publication of this notice, we shall now push on with making patchy or poor coverage a thing of the past as we build back better from the pandemic.”

O2, Three and Vodafone have 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. It plans to extend 4G coverage in 500 locations.

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.