The deal was originally proposed by the UK’s four mobile network operators as an alternative to the proposed caveats that would have accompanied their 5G rollouts
The UK government has agreed a £1 billion deal with the UK’s big four mobile network operators to launch a shared rural network, to boost coverage across rural areas of the country.
As part of the agreement UK MNOs will be obliged to provide 4G mobile network coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025 through a shared network of new and existing masts.
"We are determined to make sure no part of the country is left behind when it comes to mobile connectivity. We are closing in on a deal with the mobile network operators so those living in rural areas will be able to get the fast and reliable mobile coverage they need and deserve," said the UK’s Digital Minister, Nicky Morgan.
"Brokering an agreement for mast sharing between networks alongside new investment in mobile infrastructure will mean people get good 4G signal no matter where they are or which provider they’re with."
The deal will see the UK’s MNOs invest £530 million with the UK government investing an additional £500 million.
“There is no other scheme like this in the world. It will spell an end to annoying mobile ‘not spots’ for hundreds of thousands of people living, working and travelling in the more remote parts of the UK. By working together, we will deliver better coverage while offering more choice for consumers and businesses using far fewer masts," Vodafone UK chief executive officer Nick Jeffery.
O2’s chief operating officer, Derek McManus said that the deal would have a profound effect on boosting rural connectivity in the UK’s rural communities.
"Mobile infrastructure investment has in the past been entirely funded by the mobile network operators. The Government and Ofcom have sought to maximise coverage through measures such the attachment of coverage obligations to spectrum licences and by brokering coverage agreements with the mobile industry. This approach has successfully delivered 4G to over 98% of premises in the UK.
"However, only 67% of UK landmass receives 4G coverage from all four operators, while about 7% of the UK receives no 4G coverage from any operator. This situation was not going to change significantly under the old approach, because it did not address a fundamental challenge: that demand in many rural areas is not enough to cover the cost of mobile infrastructure investment," he added.