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Mobile Phones: Rural Areas

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 18508, tabled on 21 February 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department is taking to improve mobile phone coverage in (a) North East Bedfordshire constituency and (b) other rural areas.

Answered on

2 March 2020

The Government announced in-principle support in October 2019 for the mobile network operators’ (MNOs) Shared Rural Network (SRN) proposal. The proposal would share investment costs between the MNOs and government and increase 4G mobile coverage throughout the United Kingdom to 95% by 2025. It will be underpinned by a legally binding coverage commitment from each operator.

The Government's in-principle support is subject to detailed negotiations. While this is not yet a done deal, the Prime Minister has made improvements to rural mobile coverage part of his first 100 days pledge. I will continue to work with the sector to make that happen, but I will also explore all possible options to meet our mobile coverage ambitions, including rural roaming.

The exact site deployment plans and timescales will be managed by the MNOs themselves in order for them to best deliver the agreed coverage outcomes. So until the operators’ final radio planning exercise is complete, neither the Government nor the operators will know the precise location or number of new or upgraded masts. However, the operators will be consulting with local communities as their roll out plans become clearer.