Vodafone Expands 4G Mobile to 200 UK Rural Locations via SRN

Mobile operator Vodafone has issued a brief update on their progress under the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) project, which reveals that it has now deployed 4G (mobile broadband) network services to a total of 200 rural sites in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (up from 57 a year ago).

The industry-led SRN project – supported by £501m of public funding and £532m from operators – involves both the reciprocal sharing of existing masts in certain areas and the demand-led building and sharing of new masts in others between the operators: O2 (Virgin Media), Vodafone, EE (BT) and Three UK. The goal is to extend geographic 4G cover (aggregate) to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025 (84% when only considering the areas where you’ll be able to take 4G from all providers).

NOTE: The target varies between regions, thus 4G cover from at least one operator is expected to reach 98% in England, 91% in Scotland, 95% in Wales and 98% in N.Ireland. But this falls to 90% in England, 74% in Scotland, 80% in Wales and 85% in N.Ireland when looking at coverage from all MNOs combined.

The 200th site to benefit from Vodafone’s related deployment of 4G technology under the SRN occurred at a mast located in Combe, West Berkshire. As a result, residents, businesses and visitors should now be enjoying faster and more reliable data speeds, as well as better-quality voice calls. But many more are expected to follow.

Andrea Dona, Vodafone UK’s Network Director, said:

“The SRN programme remains an extremely important strand of our wider rural network campaign. For our 4G to reach 200 masts is great news for our customers in those rural and remote areas of the UK.  However, we continue to work hard on this programme to ensure our customers have the coverage they need, whatever their postcode.”

The programme actually consists of two targets for mobile operators to meet. One of the first of those reflects the deadline for delivery of industry funded improvements in Partial Not-Spot (PNS) areas (i.e. areas which receive coverage from at least one operator, but not all), which needs to be achieved by June 2024 – at this point 4G must cover 88% of the UK’s landmass. EE has already completed this, while Vodafone, O2 and Three UK are said to be discussing an 18-month delay (here).

The second target reflects a deadline for improvements in Total Not-Spot (TNS) areas by early 2027. Just to be clear, Ofcom’s licence obligations commit each individual operator to increase its 4G coverage to 88% of UK landmass by June 2024 – and to 90% by January 2027 – with these individual obligations supporting the overall target of 95% by December 2025.

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