Wednesday 27 January 2021 10:13 am

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

Mobile networks O2, Vodafone and Three are teaming up to build hundreds of new masts as part of a push to tackle so-called signal not-spots in rural areas.

The companies will build and share 222 mobile masts in an effort to improve 4G coverage across the UK.

In total 124 sites will be built in Scotland, 33 in Wales, 11 in Northern Ireland and 54 in England, with each operator leading on 74 sites.

The project, which marks the first stage of the government’s £1bn shared rural network plans, will begin this year and is due to be completed by 2024.

However, the plans do not include the UK’s fourth mobile network operator EE, which is less impacted by rural not-spots than its rivals.

Talks came close to collapsing last year after the four firms squabbled over how to split the cost of the venture. An industry source told City A.M. that BT-owned EE had been “really pernickety” over the financials.

BT has previously defended its actions as a “far simpler and more pragmatic” solution, adding that it was fully committed to the shared network.

The programme will expand the proportion of the UK that enjoys coverage from all four operators from 67 per cent to 84 per cent.

Collectively the industry is 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.

This will result in every mobile operator reaching 90 per cent of the UK, with a combined coverage of 95 per cent.

Digital minister Matt Warman said: “I’m delighted to see major progress being made to banish ‘not spots’ of poor or patchy mobile coverage. 

“This new infrastructure will unlock the potential of rural communities in all four nations and offer greater choice of fast and reliable 4G services.”