Wednesday 24 February 2021 10:02 am

EE to extend 4G coverage in rural not-spot crackdown

EE today said it will improve its 4G coverage in more than 500 areas across the UK as part of a government initiative to stamp out so-called signal not-spots in rural areas.

The mobile operator, which is owned by BT, has already upgraded its network in 110 areas since March last year and plans a further 469 upgrades by the end of 2021.

Read more: Mobile networks to tackle rural not-spots with mast building plan

The plan will target locations with high summer demand, such as National Parks, coastal locations and roads, in preparation for an expected increase in domestic holidays this year.

EE will expand in 333 areas in England, 132 in Scotland, 76 in Wales, and 38 in Northern Ireland.

All sites have been made available for rival operators to share under the £1bn shared rural network scheme.

The programme, first launched last year but only finalised last month, aims to extend 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2024.

All four operators are now involved after O2, Vodafone and Three last month agreed to team up to build more than 200 new masts across the country.

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The scheme, a key part of the government’s so-called levelling up agenda, is a significant achievement for the UK’s fiercely competitive telecoms industry. Talks came close to collapsing last year after the four companies squabbled over how to split the costs of the venture.

Collectively the operators are funding roughly half of the project, while the second stage will see the government pump the remaining £500m into eliminating areas where there is no mobile coverage at all.

“Reliable connectivity is important wherever you live, work or travel, and we’re committed to improving and adding coverage to even the most remote areas,” said BT chief executive Philip Jansen.

Read more: Revenue and profit fall at BT as coronavirus continues to hit telecoms giant

“The investment BT has made in rural areas to date means we already have the infrastructure in place needed to extend our 4G coverage footprint further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build. 

“There are many places where EE is the only provider with 4G coverage today, offering the other operators an opportunity to share our existing sites to plug gaps in their networks and improve mobile performance for everyone.”