Skip to main content

Shared Rural Network

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN HL514, tabled on 29 October 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the £500 million for broadband extension, announced on 28 October, will be ringfenced; and whether beneficiaries of the funding will be required to publicise the source of that funding.

Answered on

5 November 2019

The announcement on 28 October 2019 was the Ministerial Statement to Parliament in respect of the Government’s in-principle support for a Shared Rural Network (SRN) Programme, announced on 25th October 2019. The SRN is a proposal from the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to collectively increase 4G mobile coverage throughout the United Kingdom to 95% by 2025, underpinned by a legally binding coverage commitment from each operator to have reached more than 92% by 2026. The Government’s in-principle support remains subject to detailed negotiations with the MNOs, but our ambition is to reach a final agreement on the SRN early next year.

Crucially, the benefits will be felt across all four nations with the SRN extending coverage from each operator to a minimum of 85% in Scotland, 86% in Wales and 91% in Northern Ireland and 91% in England by 2026, although we expect the actual outcomes to be higher

Industry is contributing £530 million to address partial not-spots (areas where there is currently only coverage from at least one but not all four MNOs). In addition, subject to reaching a final agreement, the Government will invest £500 million to provide new digital infrastructure in total not-spot areas (areas of market failure where no operators are present today). This £500 million will be funded from central Government, for the purposes set out in the business case for the Shared Rural Network. As this funding is state aid, it will require the approval of the European Commission or, depending on the circumstances of EU exit, the Competition and Markets Authority.

The £500 million funding from Government does not assume any contributions from the devolved administrations or from local authorities. However, support from both the devolved administration and local authorities will be crucial to the success of the programme - particularly in relation to planning approvals for new sites or site upgrades. Officials in central Government have had detailed conversations about the SRN proposal with their devolved counterparts, and will continue to engage with them regularly over the coming months.

The UK has a vibrant telecoms industry, and we are keen that this programme reflects that. The programme will be delivered jointly by all four MNOs however, it is expected that organisations across the industry will have the opportunity to get involved in the delivery of the programme, as grant beneficiaries, by competing to build the required infrastructure, in an open, fair and transparent way. Beneficiaries will be required to report on their funding in line with the usual process for publishing their own accounts. Further details will be made available as the programme progresses.