Mobile signal blackspots could soon be a thing of the past

A village in the Welsh Valleys has become the first location in the UK to be connected to 4G through the £1 billion Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme.

A deal agreed between the four major mobile operators (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) and government was agreed earlier this year and will see operators share masts in areas of the country that don’t have access to all four networks.

Operators will invest £530 million to open up and share their infrastructure, and pay each other a fee for access. The government will then provide up to £500 million to build new masts in ‘total not spots’ where there is no 4G coverage from any operator. The aim is to reach 95 per cent of the UK landmass by 2025.

Shared Rural Network 4G

Vodafone is the first operator to take advantage of the project and has connected Devauden, located in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to its 4G service.

“Everyone should have mobile coverage, and everyone should have the benefit of a choice of networks,” said Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO “It is great that the industry has come together to improve coverage across the UK, and I’m proud that we’re leading the way. Our engineering team has done a great job in getting our coverage on to this site, despite the limitations of lockdown.”

“The ability to be connected wherever you are is becoming increasingly important, no more so than under the current circumstances,” added Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters. “To have the first site sharing deal in the UK under the Shared Rural Network initiative in rural Wales is fantastic. People living in and around Devauden will now have greater choice about which provider they choose and it will help support local businesses.”

The SRN agreement ends the spectre of a national roaming network and overly-restrictive coverage obligation requirements imposed on 5G spectrum licences. However the commitments are subject to oversight from Ofcom, which will have the power to issue fines of up to 10 per cent of an operator’s gross revenue if they fail to meet their targets.

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