However the proposal is dependent on telecoms regulator Ofcom removing coverage obligations
The UK’s four mobile networks have agreed to collaborate with each other to eliminate rural connectivity not-spots.
The CEOs of O2, EE, Three and Vodafone met with culture secretary Jeremy Wright on May 9, and said they would allow each other reciprocal access to rural infrastructure to improve competition.
The networks have agreed to fund sites that need to be built, on top of the government’s investment. They are currently in the process of negotiating who owns the site once it is completed.
However, the CEOs said the proposal is dependent on telecoms regulator Ofcom removing the rural coverage obligations it has attached to 5G spectrum licences that it plans to auction this year.
O2 UK CEO Mark Evans alluded to the plan last week in O2’s Q1 2019 financial results, saying: “In addition to progressing our 5G plans, we are working to establish an industry-led shared rural network for the benefit of consumers and businesses across the UK.
“This demonstrates our commitment to invest for the future, with mobile connectivity one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of British people.”
Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery said: “Our proposal on a shared rural mobile network is so crucial. It will give consumers improved rural mobile coverage while using far fewer masts.
“Vodafone will continue to throw its full weight behind the proposal and work with government and the rest of industry to make it a reality.”
Funding for the company would come from a reduction in the £200 million in annual licence fees paid by the industry. According to the Financial Times, an executive present at the meeting said the proposal was not yet a “done deal” and that the government could still choose Ofcom’s plan for rural coverage.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We’re encouraged to see mobile companies working together on proposals to improve coverage, and would consider carefully any firm plans from the industry.”