May 15, 2023

Virgin Media O2’s Shared Rural Network Rollout Reaches 50th Site In Connectivity Boost For Rural Communities

SRN, Shared Rural Network, Scotland, Mobile, 4G
  • Virgin Media O2 has rolled out reliable 4G coverage across 50 rural sites as part of its commitment to the £1bn Shared Rural Network programme
  • An area covering almost 2,200km2 – around the size of Herefordshire – is now benefitting from improved mobile signal thanks to Virgin Media O2’s upgrades
  • Helmsdale, a village in the Scottish Highlands, became the 50th site to be upgraded, a landmark welcomed by John Whittingdale, UK Government Minister of State for Digital Infrastructure, and Douglas Ross MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives
  • Continued investment is improving connectivity for residents, visitors, businesses and communities in rural areas

Virgin Media O2 has delivered 4G connectivity across 50 sites as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme, providing residents, businesses and visitors in rural communities with faster and more reliable mobile coverage than ever before.

The SRN is a £1billion joint initiative between mobile network operators and the UK Government to extend 4G connectivity to 95% of the UK’s landmass by the end of 2025.

Helmsdale, a village in the Scottish Highlands, became the 50th site to benefit from 4G connectivity after Virgin Media O2 upgraded an existing mast in the area.

Of the 50 rural sites that have been built or upgraded so far, 39 are in remote parts of Scotland – including 10 in the Argyll and Bute region – while 11 are in eastern parts of England, including rural parts of Yorkshire, Suffolk and Kent.

The upgrades have delivered faster and more reliable data speeds and higher quality voice calls in areas with previously patchy or slow services.

Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2, said:

“We are investing heavily in our network to ensure we’re offering fast and reliable mobile coverage to customers in all parts of the UK. We know many rural communities are unable to access the same level of connectivity as urban areas so we’re committed to delivering improvements through the Shared Rural Network programme.
“Boosting connectivity at 50 sites is a real milestone and means more residents, businesses and tourists in rural areas can benefit from better mobile coverage. In the weeks and months ahead we’ll continue pushing forward with our rural investments, building new masts and upgrading existing ones across various remote UK locations as we work to tackle the urban-rural digital divide.”

In addition to the 50 sites that are now live, Virgin Media O2 has secured planning consent for works at a further 100 sites, meaning work can start in the near future.

John Whittingdale, Minister of State for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“By providing fast and reliable 4G coverage through our joint £1 billion Shared Rural Network programme, Virgin Media O2 is providing rural businesses and homes with new opportunities in the digital age and supporting economic growth across the UK – a top priority for the Prime Minister.
“I look forward to further progress in connecting the most remote areas of the UK, and ensuring everyone has the mobile signal they need to work, shop or stay in touch with family and friends.”

Rural parts of Scotland have been the greatest beneficiaries of Virgin Media O2’s rollout to date, with 39 masts either installed or upgraded. Around a quarter of these are in Argyll and Bute, while further connectivity improvements have been delivered in Aberdeenshire, the Scottish Borders, the Hebrides, the Highlands, Stirling, Fife, Dumfries, East Lothian and Perth and Kinross.

Douglas Ross MSP for Highlands and Islands and Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, said:

“Representing rural and remote communities across Moray and the Highlands and Islands, means I am acutely aware of how important improvements in mobile connectivity are for people and businesses in our area.
“It is welcome to see that Virgin Media O2 have now rolled out this better coverage across so many sites in areas I represent both as a MP and MSP.
“In particular, I am delighted that Buckie is one of the areas now benefitting from these new networks. This will help to support local businesses as well as residents frustrated with poor mobile signal.
“I am committed to continuing to push for further boosts in mobile and broadband connectivity throughout our rural and remote communities.”

Through the Shared Rural Network, 84% of the UK will benefit from 4G coverage from all four mobile network operators, with 95% having 4G connectivity provided by at least one operator.

The original press release from Virgin Media O2 can be found here.


Notes to editors

  • The Shared Rural Network was developed by the UK’s four mobile network operators (Virgin Media O2, EE, Three and Vodafone) and Government, with the aim of improving rural connectivity.
  • By upgrading existing networks and working together on shared infrastructure and new sites, the MNOs and Government will transform mobile coverage in rural areas.
  • To deliver the programme, MNOs will invest a total of £532m to eliminate the majority of ‘partial not-spots’ – areas which receive coverage from at least one, but not all, operators. The UK Government will provide a further £500m to build new masts to eliminate ‘total not-spots’ – hard to reach areas where there is currently no coverage at all.
  • SRN is a sustainable approach to the challenge of delivering rural mobile coverage. The programme will transform 4G coverage without duplicating infrastructure, minimising the impact on our countryside.
  • These are the locations of the first 50 sites:

Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross

Alford, Aberdeenshire

Ballater, Aberdeenshire

Banff, Aberdeenshire

Beauly, Highland

Bellingham, Northumberland

Buckie, Moray

Callander, Stirling

Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute

Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute



Colonsay, Argyll and Bute

Darwell Wood, East Sussex

Dunoon, Argyll and Bute

Dunoon, Argyll and Bute

Haddington, East Lothian

Hailsham, Wealden

Helmsdale, Highland

Inverness, Highland



Isle of Arran

Isle of Bute, Argyll and Bute

Isle of Harris, Hebrides

Isle of Harris, Hebrides

Isle of Lewis, Hebrides

Isle of Lewis, Hebrides

Isle of Lewis, Hebrides

Isle of Mull, Argyll and Bute

Isle of Mull, Argyll and Bute

Isle of Mull, Argyll and Bute

Isle of North Uist, Hebrides

Isle of Sky, Hebrides

Knockendoch, Dumfries

Kyle, Highland

Lairg, Highland

Lairg, Highland

Maidstone (Kent)

Newport on Tay, Fife

Oakham, Rutland


Perth, Perth and Kinross

Selkirk, Scottish Borders

Sheerness, Swale (Kent)


Tadcaster, Leeds

Tain, Highland

Tighnabruaich, Argyll and Bute

Walkerburn, Scottish Borders

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