March 11, 2021

Government gets green light on £500 million support package to boost rural mobile coverage via the Shared Rural Network

Shared Rural Network, 4G, Transparency Notice

  • Government gets green light to provide more than £500 million to extend mobile coverage through the landmark Shared Rural Network 

Today the government published its transparency notice for the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme, enabling it to provide more than £500 million to help extend rural 4G mobile coverage.

The Shared Rural Network is a £1 billion deal between the UK Government and the UK’s four mobile network operators, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone that will see both public and private investment in a network of new and existing shared phone masts.

The publication of the transparency notice means the government can now proceed with grant agreements with the MNOs for more than £500 million that it has committed to reduce ‘total not-spots’ and ensure good mobile coverage across 95% of the UK.

Total not-spots are the hard-to-reach areas of the UK where there is currently no coverage from any mobile operator.

Closing total not spots will give rural consumers better choice of providers as more of them will offer coverage in certain areas for the first time. People will also benefit from improved access to mobile banking, government and emergency services as well as shopping and other online benefits.

The funding will enable new masts to be built getting rid of total not spots, and to upgrade radio equipment built as part the Home Office’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) Programme which will enable MNOs to provide even more coverage.

Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman MP said:

“The Shared Rural Network is a key part of the government’s infrastructure revolution to level up and unlock new economic opportunities in every corner of the UK. 

“Mobile firms are making great progress boosting 4G services in countryside communities as part of their side of this landmark agreement.

 “With the publication of this notice, we shall now push on with making patchy or poor coverage a thing of the past as we build back better from the pandemic."

The four mobile network operators (MNO) involved in the SRN have already begun work as part of the deal to close the majority of ‘partial not-spots’ - areas where there is coverage from at least one but not all operators - by mid-2024. There have been over 700 sites announced so far this year to help close not-spots. 

With the government’s funding now available, the government and the MNOs remain confident that combined coverage will be delivered to 95% of UK geography by the end of 2025, with areas around the UK starting to see improvements to 4G coverage long before completion.

The UK Government's full press release on this announcment can be found here.

The transparency notice can be found here.

The listing in the BEIS subsidies directory can be found here.

Further details of the recently announced investment by the four mobile operators in the partial not spot element of the Shared Rural Network can be found here.

About Building Mobile Britain

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Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain

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