A deal between the UK’s mobile network operators, the government and Ofcom could pave the way for a dramatic connectivity boost for rural communities

The UK’s four mobile network operators have agreed a deal to allow shared access to their mobile network infrastructure, in a bid to boost connectivity in rural and hard to reach locations.

Senior representatives from EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three agreed to allow access to one another’s mobile towers and masts on a reciprocal basis. The move will greatly boost connectivity in sparsely populated areas which are currently deemed economically unviable to justify investment.

“We know that access to a fast and reliable mobile network is important to how we live, work and travel. This is as true for those in remote areas as it is for those in our towns and cities. That is why 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,” Vodafone UK’s Chief Executive Officer, Nick Jeffery, told Total Telecom via email.

In addition to the shared access agreement, Britain’s MNOs have also proposed the formation of a new company to allocate funding for new 4G masts in a bid to eliminate the country’s numerous and notorious connectivity not-spots.

Currently, 9 per cent of the UK population lives in areas where they are unable to receive a mobile signal strong enough to make or receive a call, send a text message or access mobile broadband services.

The UK’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, insists that network operators must deliver adequate mobile phone signal to 95 per cent of the population by 2022.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the new agreement is dependent upon the removal of proposed coverage obligations which were due to be attached to 5G spectrum put up for auction later this year. The deal can be seen as a way for network operators to decouple this obligation from their 5G rollout programmes. 

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