June 26, 2024

New Report Shows “Life-Changing” Impact of Mobile Connectivity on UK’s Rural Communities

  • A new independent report, commissioned using data from four EE mast deployments, shows 4G mobile connectivity can generate more than £6 million for a rural community.
  • From farming and fishing to tourism and TV production, report analyses rural locations which have received new or enhanced 4G coverage to assess the economic and social impact.
  • EE has built more than 300 new rural mobile sites and upgraded over 1,500 moreacross the UK in the past five years, as part of its committment to the Shared Rural Network.

A new independent study carried out by connectivityconsultancy FarrPoint has analysed the socio-economic impact of four EE 4G mobilesites on the rural communities they serve across the UK.  

The report finds:

  • A range of social and economic benefits, worth between £249,000 and £6.9 million to different types of rural communities over 15 years.
  • Significant additional social well being and safety benefits brought about by mobile connectivity.
  • Reliable mobile signal is helping transform local industries, with small businesses, freelancers and tourist populations all deriving economic benefits from 4G coverage.
  • Although all masts provide a benefit, in two of the locations analysed, the cost to the operator of delivering and maintaining the 4G mobile network is more than the economic uplift the community realise from the coverage.

Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer at BT Group commented:

“Every rural community can benefit from modern mobile connectivity. This report provides evidence of how it is helping local businesses grow, supporting rural employment opportunities, and enabling more people to experience the benefits of the digital economy. That’s why we’re proud to have delivered on the coverage targets we committed to, helping to close the digital divide and ensure that the benefits of 4G connectivity are more widely felt in every corner of the UK.”  

Game-changing coverage for the Scottish Highlands

For people living, working or travelling in and near Mallaig in Scotland, EE 4G is delivering social and economic benefits worth between £742,000 and £1,054,000.  

Iain, a commercial fisherman and lifelong resident of the Isle of Skye – which is covered by the mobile mast in Mallaig – says the impact EE’s high-speed 4G connectivity has had on him and his business is transformative. His hour-long journeys spent travelling out to sea are now spent catching up on emails, liaising with shellfish buyers across Europe and accessing mobile banking – all on his mobile phone.  He says:

“Now we've got internet coverage at sea with EE, I can do all my emails and banking while the boat is on autopilot on our way out in the morning or on our way home at night. We can also access weather forecasts and contact the emergency services. It's a life-changing thing for our work. People in the city would take it for granted but what I can now do while working at sea is a game-changer.”

A bigger slice of the pie for Melton Mowbray

The benefits to the rural communities covered by EE’s site to the north of Melton Mowbray in England are worth between £5,024,000 and £6,939,000.

Libby, a self-employed equestrian coach, teaches people of all ages and abilities to ride horses at venues within the Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire area (including Melton Mowbray and surrounding villages), while also managing a busy livery stable. She says:

“In all my roles my mobile phone is so important, but especially when needing to get signal in the middle of a field when we're out cross-country schooling should we need first aid or an ambulance. Rural areas are usually a little bit behind those in the city in terms of technology, but we’ve got to keep up with the times and stay modern.”

Supporting film production in Northern Ireland

In the coastal hamlet of Dunseverick in Northern Ireland, EE’s 4G generates benefits worth between £353,000 and £518,000 to the local population.

With major productions like Game of Thrones, Northern Ireland has seen a huge growth in film and television production in recent years. Alana, a freelance set decorator working in the fast-moving industry, says mobile coverage is helping to change a whole range of processes for the better and shine a light on local talent.

“A film production is never set in stone. Scripts, locations and timings are always evolving and it’s vital that I can respond in real-time to meet changing and challenging deadlines. Being able to hold phone calls – especially in remote areas – allows me to work when travelling between locations, freeing up time at the other end. Dailies (daily raw footage) can be uploaded to cloud platforms, allowing directors and producers, who might not be on location, to review and provide feedback promptly. This real-time collaboration is essential for maintaining the pace and quality of production.
“Filmmakers can use social media and dedicated apps to reach out to local communities, discovering actors and crew members who might not have access to traditional casting networks. This not only enriches the film’s authenticity but also provides valuable opportunities for rural talents to break into the industry.”

Creating a connected future for Wales

The additional 4G coverage added to the EE mast near Trawsfynydd in Eryri National Park in Wales will deliver between £249,000 to £383,000 in benefits to the local community.

Morien, a sixth-generation farmer, has been using EE’s increased 4G coverage to manage his 2,500-acre farmland in this remote part of Wales through his smartphone; mapping fields, staying in touch with customers and staff, and using digital tools to track the health of his pedigree Welsh Black cattle. He says:

“The reception is fantastic. I can now use apps to record if a cow hasn't been well if she's had certain injections and we can register where they've been grazing. If I'm out in the middle of the mountain and I've got a cow and she's had a calf, I simply put a tag in it and I can go online where I am and register it straight away.”

Significant community benefits but benefit for mobile networks vary

In the last five years, EE has invested hundreds of millions of pounds to help improve coverage in rural communities; expanding its 4G network by a further 10,000 square kilometres and extending fast and reliable mobile connectivity to more than 1,700 additional rural locations.

This included building more than 300 new 4G masts, strategically placed to support the growing needs of countryside communities while having minimal impact on the natural environment. Doing so not only helped transform the everyday lives of local people in these rural locations, but also enabled EE to meet its legally binding coverage commitments under the Shared Rural Network (SRN) and deliver 4G coverage to more than 50 isolated communities as part of the Scottish 4G Infill (S4GI) project.

FarrPoint’s analysis shows there is a significant positive economic impact in every rural community that received 4G coverage from EE. At two of the sites (Mallaig and Melton Mowbray), the scale of the social and economic benefits to the local community considerably outweighs the cost of the network investment (c. £553,000 per rural mast on average).  

FarrPoint’s latest study, Rural 4G connectivity: Analysing the community benefits of mobile investment, is available to read or download in full 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.

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