Viewpoint | 16 Jan 2020

Living in the countryside doesn’t have to mean a disconnected life

In a piece that originally appeared on the Countryside Alliance website, Scott Petty, Vodafone UK's Chief Technology Officer, explains how the Shared Rural Network will benefit people who live and work in the countryside.

If you are living, working or travelling in the countryside, the ability to use your mobile is now an important part of everyday life.

So, we’re proud that Vodafone has conducted its largest-ever investment programme to bring 4G to 99% of the UK population where they live and work. But as many of you already know, there are still gaps in the mobile coverage. This can be annoying, especially if you’re running a local business or trying to keep in touch with friends and family while on the move.

The cost of going further and faster has held us back, but things are about to change for the better.

We’re determined to succeed.

And that’s because of a new agreement we at Vodafone UK have been working on for more than a year with the other mobile operators and the UK government. It’s called the Shared Rural Network (SRN). This will see the big four mobile companies sharing masts and resources – with some financial help from government – to ensure there is a 4G mobile signal across 95% of the land mass by 2025.

It should mean an end to the vast majority of those irritating “not-spots” – areas where there is no mobile signal – and virtually all the partial not-spots, where you have a signal from one or more operators, but not all four. This will enable people who live and work in the countryside to enjoy fully connected, digitally fulfilled lives. And all this will be delivered using fewer masts than would otherwise be necessary.

Change is definitely coming.

The improvements in coverage won’t happen overnight, given the scale of the work ahead of us. This is a major infrastructure building project. Bringing mobile and internet services to rural communities scattered across hard-to-reach parts of the country has always been difficult. Mountains and valleys, waterways and woodlands, all tend to hinder mobile signals. Masts also need power and links back to the main network – using fibre cables or wireless connections – which can be complex and expensive to install.

But we’re determined to succeed. Change is definitely coming. Living and working in the countryside doesn’t have to mean being cut off from the rest of the world.