New research from Vodafone UK has revealed that nearly half (46%) of rural deprived areas are 5G “not spots” compared with 2.7% of urban deprived areas 

The report, named “Connecting the countryside”, examined the correlation between rural 5G “not spots” and rural deprivation levels. The result of the study was a ranking of every parliamentary constituency in the UK, in terms of 4G and 5G coverage in relation to standard deprivation levels.  

Five areas of the UK were highlighted as having particularly poor connectivity: Scotland, Wales, East Anglia, Cumbria, and the Southwest. In total, 838,000 people who live in rural deprived areas are missing out on the benefits of 5G, according to Vodafone. 

“We believe everyone should have access to connectivity and our research shows the alarming rate at which almost a million people living in deprived rural communities are being left behind’” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK. 

“It’s clear we need to accelerate the roll-out of the UK’s 5G infrastructure, which is what we commit to do as part of our proposed merger with Three UK. We would close the rural digital divide by delivering 95% 5G Standalone geographic coverage by 2034.”  

The report makes notable mention of the proposed Vodafone–Three merger with promises such as, “Vodafone has committed, if its proposed merger with Three goes ahead, to rolling out 5G to every school in the country by 2030,” making the study appear to be a bid to bolster support for the merger, hinting that it is vital for the future of UK connectivity 

“New research published today lays bare the challenge we face to bring connectivity to our most deprived rural communities to match the rest of the country, and to ensure that millions of people are not left out from the future innovations that 5G can provide,” said Simon Fell, Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness and Rural Connectivity Champion. 

Vodafone explains that low demand due to sparser populations often does not justify the investment in rural areas, which has resulted in governmental intervention through schemes such as the Shared Rural Network (SRN). Despite this, connectivity in rural areas is often characterised by high latency and low bandwidth. The current geographic coverage of 4G in the UK is 80–87%, and the SRN aims to extend this to 95% by 2025. 

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