Providing ubiquitous high-quality 4G coverage across the UK is still a challenge. However, as part of ongoing commitment to the nationwide Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme, Vodafone has announced that customers living, working or visiting 57 rural communities and locations across the UK are now receiving 4G.
After years of complaints by mobile consumers and businesses that the major political parties had consistently failed rural businesses by lacking a credible plan to improve mobile 4G and 5G coverage, the £1.3bn SRN programme is designed to wipe so-called “notspots” from the map, providing high-quality 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025.
First proposed in October 2019, the SRN is made possible through a partnership between the UK’s four major telecoms operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – which are investing in a shared network of new and existing phone masts, overseen by a jointly owned company called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL).
Across the four UK operators, Northern Ireland will see 4G coverage rise to at least 85% of landmass, Scotland will rise to at least 74%, England will rise to 90%, and Wales will rise to at least 80%. The four networks’ £532m investment is supplemented by more than £500m in government funding to eliminate “total notspots”. The coverage commitments are being enforced by UK regulator Ofcom.
The new arrival of Vodafone 4G at sites in locations from Orkney Islands to Devon means residents, businesses and visitors are now enjoying faster and more reliable data speeds as well as better quality voice calls.
“Connectivity is vital for everyone, which is why we are continually investing in our network. However, connecting rural and hard-to-reach parts of the UK can be difficult and restricted by cost,” said Vodafone UK network and development director Andrea Dona.
“The Shared Rural Network initiative enables the UK network operators to work together so people living and working in such areas have a choice of network as well as the connectivity they need to support local and ultimately the wider UK economy.”
UK Department for Science, Innovation & Technology minister Julia Lopez added: “The £1bn Shared Rural Network is a key part of our plan to make patchy mobile phone reception a thing of the past and give people great connectivity wherever they live.
“Vodafone is working tirelessly to boost 4G coverage in rural areas and it’s great to see the progress being made. We are making sure our countryside communities don’t miss out on the speed and efficiency of internet services on the go – from keeping in touch with family to running a business.”
The new activity builds on Vodafone’s strategy to bring 4G coverage to 99% of UK premises. Vodafone is also exploring new mast technologies such as OpenRAN, which is already starting to supporting delivery of coverage in a number of rural communities areas.
In addition, solutions such as MyFarmWeb are designed to offer a cloud-based platform app than enables farmers to store, visual and view information gathered through agricultural internet of things (IoT) sensors and other data sources in the field.