The operator says it will upgrade over 2,000 mobile sites to 4G by June 2024 to help improve rural coverage
The Shared Rural Network (SRN) project was first announced by the government back in March 2020, aiming to improve geographic coverage of 4G in the UK to 95% by the end of 2025. The £1 billion project involves joint investment from both government and industry, who have both pledged to invest £500 million to help work towards the goal.
In addition to building new infrastructure and upgrading older technologies, the deal also ensures that EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three will share existing mobile infrastructure in a number of areas, thereby increase choice for customers.
All in all, the project should provide coverage for 240,000 premises currently without service, as well as greatly boosting coverage on the roads.
Work on the project began in earnest in February 2021, with Vodafone, Three, and O2 signing an agreement to build and share 222 new 4G mobile masts. EE was notably missing from the deal, but this was easily explained by the fact that their existing infrastructure already met the Phase One requirements of the project.
Nonetheless, since then EE has been driving forward with its plans to improve 4G coverage, having upgraded 853 areas since the launch of the SRN project.
Now, EE is pledging to significantly increase this upgrade by mid-2024, aiming to upgrade an additional 1,532 sites; 925 in England, 359 in Scotland, 125 in Northern Ireland, and 123 in Wales.
In total, over 2,000 sites will have been upgraded to 4G by June 2024. All of these sites are available for EE’s rival operators to use as part of the SRN programme.
“Today we’ve made a renewed commitment to boost rural connectivity, helping improve mobile performance regardless of location. The investment BT has made in rural areas means we have the infrastructure in place to extend our 4G coverage footprint even further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build to ensure everyone has access to reliable connectivity,” said Philip Jansen, Chief Executive of BT Group. “EE is still the only provider of 4G coverage in many places across the UK, and we encourage other operators to recognise the opportunity sharing our sites offers to fill gaps in their networks.”
Since agreeing to build additional infrastructure back in February, Vodafone, O2 (now Virgin Media O2), and Three have not announced any additional plans regarding the SRN, but with EE now taking the lead, it seems likely they will do so early next year.
Can the UK operators reach their ambitious goals for rural 4G coverage by 2025? Hear from the operators themselves at next year’s Connected Britain event
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