May 3, 2023

Scottish Residents And Businesses To Get Major 4G Boost Thanks To £75 Million Shared Rural Network Investment

  • First UK government-funded phone mast upgrade activated in Lockerbie, Scotland, to give a major 4G mobile coverage boost to the community
  • Part of the UK government’s joint £1 billion Shared Rural Network programme with industry, with more than 120 similar masts in Scotland in line for upgrades
  • Four major mobile network operators share the mobile mast, offering customers in the area more choice

People living and working in the Lockerbie area in Scotland are to benefit from significantly improved mobile phone connectivity as the first UK government-funded rural mast upgrade is completed as part of the Shared Rural Network joint initiative with industry.

The mast will deliver strong and reliable 4G coverage to residents in the east of Dumfries and Galloway, benefitting people living in Boreland, Eskdalemuir, Lochmaben and other neighbouring villages.

This is just the first of more than 120 planned mast upgrades across Scotland, with more to follow over the next year, through a £75 million UK government investment from the Shared Rural Network, a £1 billion project with the UK’s four mobile network operators (MNOs) - EE, VMO2, Three and Vodafone - to improve 4G coverage and level-up connectivity across the UK.

Through both public and private investment, the Shared Rural Network is seeing new and existing phone masts built or upgraded across the UK to close down rural mobile ‘not spots’. These are areas of poor or patchy coverage that cannot receive a 4G signal from all four MNOs, or any signal at all, which holds back rural communities from experiencing the full benefits of digital technology.

Chloe Smith, UK Science and Technology Secretary said:

We are investing in the things that matter to the people of the UK, and this includes funding strong, reliable 4G signal for rural communities struggling with poor coverage.
Our £75 million investment means people across Scotland will benefit from upgraded infrastructure that is fit for the future, starting with the first mast upgrade in Dumfries and Galloway.
Growing our economy is one of the Prime Minister’s top priorities and this includes bringing fast, reliable mobile signal to wherever people are, giving them all the connectivity they need to work, shop and keep in touch online.

The mast, located in the Boreland area to the north of Lockerbie, is part of the Home Office’s Emergency Services Network (ESN), which will give first responders faster, safer and more secure voice, video and data on the 4G network, for better access to life-saving information in emergencies.

But upgrading the mast also makes it usable by the four MNOs, meaning they can host and share equipment on it for the first time, offering improved signal and greater choice of provider for residents and businesses. This will enable people in the area to better seize the benefits of the internet at home and on the go in order to stay connected with friends and family, work remotely, shop and bank online and stream entertainment.

UK Government minister for Scotland John Lamont said:

A reliable phone signal is one of the biggest issues faced by our rural communities around Scotland and I am pleased the UK Government has committed £75 million to upgrade 120 masts across the country. The public and private sector are coming together to make sure people are better connected.
The upgrade in Lockerbie is just the start and I look forward to other rural communities benefiting as part of our £1 billion Shared Rural Network programme in the UK.

Ben Roome, CEO of Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL) said:

Today’s news is only possible thanks to meaningful collaboration by the government and mobile operators. This site will benefit local people and businesses, but is also a major milestone heralding the rollout of hundreds of similar shared sites across the UK.

Councillor Gail Macgregor, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, said:

This is great news as good connectivity is now critical for citizens and businesses in our region. We all need a reliable service, from keeping in touch with friends and family to ordering online. This is part of our modern way of life and is an essential requirement, particularly in our rural area of Dumfries and Galloway.


Notes to editors

  • The government and industry is jointly investing over £1 billion to increase 4G mobile coverage throughout the UK to 95% geographic coverage, through the Shared Rural Network
  • In Scotland, coverage from all four operators will rise to a minimum of 74%, up from 44%. Coverage from at least one operator will increase from 81% to 91% by the end of the programme
  • The UK government is working with mobile network operators, upgrading their existing networks and working together on shared infrastructure and new sites, to transform mobile coverage in rural areas, increase choice of provider and boost productivity
  • This element of the Shared Rural Network programme will see the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology provide £184 million of the £500 million UK government SRN funding to the Home Office and mobile network operators to upgrade Extended Area Service (EAS) masts being built as part of the Emergency Services Network (ESN), to make them usable by the four operators and offer commercial connectivity for the first time. This will help eliminate total not-spots - the hard to reach areas where there is currently no coverage at all from any operator
  • There will be 292 EAS sites across Great Britain (with 123 in Scotland), although not all will be commercially upgraded due to various technical or value for money reasons.
  • The programme is on target to deliver the combined coverage target of 95% of the UK’s landmass by the end of 2025, and further coverage improvements in more hard-to-reach areas will continue to be delivered until early 2027. On the other part of the Shared Rural Network programme, the four mobile network operators are working collaboratively and investing in areas of partial commercial coverage, referred to as partial non-spots (areas where there is currently coverage from at least one, but not all operators)
  • For more information on the Shared Rural Network please visit the SRN website

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