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Telecommunications: Rural Areas

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN HL13710, tabled on 25 February 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made in expanding communications network coverage in rural areas; and what plans they have to share the resources used by the Emergency Services Network to achieve such coverage.

Answered on

5 March 2021

The Government’s £1 billion Shared Rural Network (SRN) agreement with the Mobile Network Operators, will see the operators collectively increase 4G mobile coverage to 95% by the end of the programme. While the programme is still in its early stages, we anticipate that areas of the UK will see improvements in coverage long before its completion. On 27 January 2021, the operators O2, Three and Vodafone announced a joint venture to build and share 222 new mobile masts to boost rural coverage across the United Kingdom and deliver the first stage of the SRN. This will see 124 new sites built in Scotland, 33 in Wales, 11 in Northern Ireland, and 54 in England.

Furthermore, on 24 February, EE announced it will be expanding 4G in more than 500 areas in this year to improve rural connectivity across the UK as part of the programme. This will include 333 in England, 132 in Scotland, 76 in Wales, and 38 in Northern Ireland. 110 areas have already been upgraded since the SRN deal was signed, with a further 469 to follow this year in the first phase of the programme.

The Government is committed to delivering value for money for the taxpayer by sharing infrastructure where possible for the Shared Rural Network. The Home Office will make the Extended Area Service (EAS) infrastructure, which is part of the new Emergency Services Network (ESN), available to all mobile operators for deployment as part of SRN. In some specific cases, SRN site upgrades may not be possible due to insurmountable practical or cost barriers.