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Government agrees £1bn deal with all four MNOs to improve 4G coverage

Paul Lipscombe
October 25, 2019

All four operators have welcomed the agreement that will see the operators share existing masts infrastructure 

The Government has agreed a deal with the four major mobile networks in the UK to a Shared Rural Network in a deal that is worth £1 billion.

EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three has all agreed to the plans as the Government aims to provide high-quality 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025.

The deal has been supported by Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan, with the four operators commiting £530 million towards the shared network, with the Government to potentially match this with a £500 million investment.

Rural areas will benefit the most from this deal, with consumers able to rely on their mobile no matter wherever they are.

In particular areas that will see the greatest improvement will be in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Although the deal is still subject to legal agreement, the Government hopes to finalise an outcome in early 2020.

The Shared Rural Network will see the four operators sharing existing masts and infrastructure in a bid to close almost all partial not-spots, in areas where there is usually just one operator present.

It also means that there will be additional mobile coverage for 280,000 premises and 16,000 kilometres of road.

Morgan said: “We are determined to make sure no part of the country is left behind when it comes to mobile connectivity. We are closing in on a deal with the mobile network operators so those living in rural areas will be able to get the fast and reliable mobile coverage they need and deserve.

“Brokering an agreement for mast sharing between networks alongside new investment in mobile infrastructure will mean people get good 4G signal no matter where they are or which provider they’re with.”


All four CEO’s for the four MNOs have welcomed the deal, with Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery hoping “it will spell an end to annoying mobile not spots for hundreds of thousands of people living, working and travelling in the more remote parts of the UK”.

O2 UK CEO Mark Evans added: “These proposals represent a step-change in the way that mobile coverage is delivered. They are the most ambitious solution, of all proposals on the table and will ensure that customers across all corners of the UK can access a good connection.”

Three CEO David Dyson said: “It is the best way to enhance mobile connectivity for the 9.3 million living in the UK’s countryside: it brings mobile coverage to more places in the UK and it gives people in rural areas a similar choice as those living in towns and cities.”

“This ambitious proposal combined with critical Government support, will remove the key barriers to tackling the tricky not-spot problem, ensuring people and businesses right across the UK get access to the digital connectivity they need, wherever they are,” said BT Consumer division CEO Marc Allera.


Meanwhile Mobile UK director Hamish MacLeod has called the agreement good for both consumers and businesses across the UK.

“The mobile industry has a shared commitment with the Government to invest in and accelerate rural coverage improvements, and I am delighted that with the Shared Rural Network we have a proposal of action to deliver.

“Working in partnership with the Government all four mobile operators, through a programme of shared infrastructure, will virtually eliminate partial not-spots and then go further to bring 4G coverage to the most rural parts of the UK,” said MacLeod. head of digital Holly Niblett said the agreement is a “step in the right direction” for those in rural areas.

“Rural residents living or working in our green and pleasant land will be all-too familiar with a patchy or non-existent mobile reception.

“Whilst it remains to be seen whether the new shared mast scheme and further investment from the government will put an end to crackly phone conversations and unsent emails for countryside dwellers, the government’s pledge to open up the market is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.”

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