February 23, 2024

SRN Update: DSIT Response To NAO Report

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report titled Supporting mobile connectivity which examines whether DSIT is on track to deliver UK-wide reliable mobile connectivity that meets the country’s needs now and in the future.

In response to the report, a DSIT spokesperson said:

“This is premature. The programme remains on track to deliver 95% UK 4G coverage by the end of 2025, with coverage already available across 93% of UK landmass.
“We will continue to work with mobile network operators to ensure the programme is delivered on time and that the crucial coverage improvements are delivered across rural parts of the country.”

Read the full report on the NAO website.


  • It is not clear on what basis the NAO is claiming the Shared Rural Network (SRN) is “behind schedule” as the mobile network operators’ progress against their coverage targets, for the first part of the programme, will not be assessed by Ofcom until the summer.
  • As noted in the report 4G coverage has risen significantly since the SRN deal was signed in March 2020. In fact 4G coverage from at least one mobile network operator now stands at 93% which is up from 91% since the SRN was agreed. This shows the programme is already delivering improved coverage across the UK.
  • Early progress has seen several planning applications for total not-spot (TNS) sites approved and more than 70 planning applications submitted. However alongside this, the project is facing challenges with significant planning delays, cost challenges and local opposition.  Building Digital UK (BDUK) is working, including with our delivery partners, to address these concerns, including through cost assurance work.
  • The UK government has a responsibility to ensure all parts of the country are able to benefit from the opportunities provided by digital connectivity. The SRN intentionally has geographic targets in order to tackle this challenge, and ensure the programme remains focused on the most rural parts of the country.
  • Local planning authorities are responsible for approving applications which form part of the SRN programme. The mobile network operators continue to work closely with them and local communities to ensure new masts, which will facilitate 999 calls for the first time, go through the proper planning process and are considerate of areas of natural beauty.
  • Additionally, publicly funded masts will be shared by all four mobile network operators to minimise the impact on the environment and wherever possible the programme will utilise existing infrastructure. Mobile networks operators continue to work closely with local communities and planning authorities to ensure new masts go through the proper planning process and are considerate to areas of natural beauty.
  • 5G deployment across the UK will rely heavily on the use of existing 4G infrastructure and the Shared Rural Network paves the way for our 5G future. A robust 4G infrastructure network will be a considerable asset as the UK progresses its 5G ambitions.

This article can also be found on the SRN website 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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