New figures published today show that geographic 4G coverage from at least one operator will reach 95% of the UK by the end of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme
The SRN was officially introduced back in March 2020, a £1 billion initiative jointly funded by the public and private sector, aiming to improve 4G coverage in some of the most poorly served areas of the UK.
The plan involves the sharing of telecoms infrastructure between operators to help improve consumer choice, as well as the sharing of new masts built to serve these areas. Ultimately, the goal is to provide the UK with 95% geographic coverage with 4G by the end of 2025.
As part of the project, earlier this year O2, Vodafone, and Three reached an agreement to build and share 222 new 4G mobile masts. EE, meanwhile, said that they were preparing to expand their 4G rural coverage to 579 additional areas in 2021.
Now, the latest forecast from the SRN shows exactly how far 4G coverage will be improved in various regions across the UK.
Crucially, 4G coverage from at least one mobile network operator (MNO) will increase to over 90% for all of the home nations; England and Northern Ireland will enjoy 98% coverage, Wales 95%, and Scotland 91%. This represents an overall increase from 91% coverage pre-SRN to 95% following the project.
Coverage from all four of the UK’s MNOs will increase even more dramatically, rising from 69% pre-SRN to 84% post-SRN. Scotland will see the largest increase in this regard, seeing combined operator coverage improve around two-thirds, up from 44% before the programme to 74%. Wales will see the next largest jump, up 20% from 60% pre-SRN to 80% post-SRN.
England and Northern Ireland will both improve just 6% (84% to 90% and 79% to 85%, respectively), though this is hardly surprising given their already high level of combined coverage.
The map below gives a good visual representation of these improvements, also making clear that the largest impact felt in England will be in the North and South-West of the country.
The government has also now announced a consultation with the industry to identify existing infrastructure that could be used more effectively to reduce so-called ‘not spots’.
Will the UK operators meet the SRN’s coverage goals? Find out how the experts are tackling the problem of rural connectivity and the digital divide at this year’s live Connected Britain conference