Viewpoint | 09 Mar 2020

Now a rural postcode will no longer be a barrier to better mobile connectivity

The UK Government, Vodafone and the three other mobile providers have confirmed that it’s full steam ahead for the Shared Rural Network. This is great news for the country, says Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone UK.

We believe that a rural postcode should not be a barrier to receiving a decent mobile signal. Which is why we have been so keen to drive the Shared Rural Network (SRN) proposal forward. For a number of years, Vodafone has been calling on Government and the industry to work together to solve the rural connectivity issue.

So it’s wonderful to see this proposal finally come to fruition. You can read the Government’s press release here.

This £1bn programme, created by the industry and Government, is unmatched anywhere in the world. It will mean an end to mobile ‘not spots’ for people in the more remote areas, whether they are at home, at work or on the move.

Under the agreement, the mobile industry will work together to make a 4G mobile signal available to 95% of the UK landmass by 2025. This is on top of the 99% population coverage Vodafone already delivers after spending billions improving our network over the last five years.

The SRN will transform mobile coverage in much of the UK, offering an improved 4G service in remote locations – often where there is no mobile coverage whatsoever.

This means at least 280,000 more UK premises will receive mobile coverage, and at least 16,000Km of roads. It will give people living, working and travelling in the countryside the same opportunities as those living in well-connected cities.

This will boost the rural economy, tackle the scourge of isolation, and help close the rural digital divide.

Better coverage, lower cost

So I’m really proud of Vodafone’s role in making this SRN happen – it is truly ground-breaking.

What’s also really significant is that it will achieve better coverage than that originally proposed by media regulator Ofcom in its spectrum auction obligations for the UK as a whole, and for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales individually.

Mobile phone mast and base station

Credits: Vodafone

Credits: Vodafone
By sharing masts and resources we should save energy and reduce our impact on the environment

As an industry we will invest more than £500m, while the Government will contribute hundreds of millions extending coverage to those areas that have no signal at all. And better coverage will be achieved at a lower cost to the taxpayer. By sharing masts and resources we will use less energy, remove duplication in mast building, and reduce the impact on the environment.

It’s a win-win for all. And we will now get on with the job of delivering it.

Connecting the country

The SRN isn’t the only way we’re improving coverage in rural areas.

The Government’s Rural Connected Communities programme is funding testbeds to explore how superfast 5G mobile connectivity could also help people living in the countryside.

Vodafone is excited to be working with Dorset Council on a £4.3m project exploring how 5G could help with a wide range of activities, from crop and livestock monitoring using drones, to coastline emergency response.

It’s just another example of how we at Vodafone are committed to improving connectivity for all across the country. No-one should be left behind in this digital revolution.

And we’re determined no-one will be.