The UK government and major mobile operators are working on a £1bn deal that will extend 4G coverage to 95% of the country by 2025 and bring reliable communications to rural areas where mobile connectivity is currently non-existent or poor.
The world-first proposal announced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) last Friday will see EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 create a shared rural network which would allow customers to roam freely in troublesome spots.
“Brokering an agreement for mast sharing between networks alongside new investment in mobile infrastructure will mean people get good 4G signal no matter where they are or which provider they’re with,” Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said.
Morgan stressed that it is “not yet a done deal” and urged the mobile industry to act quickly so an agreement is in place by early 2020.
The move, which would involve £530m investment from the four mobile networks and a £500m sum from the government, would see an additional 16,000km of road and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses served by mobile 4G.
Around a third of the UK still has to suffer through patch coverage but the potential work on new and existing phone masts will see many of the not-spots addressed by the middle of the next decade.
Vodafone chief Scott Petty also noted it was “extremely unlikely” that consumers will have to pay more for mobile data as the proposals are a cost-effective means to building a robust infrastructure to support the UK’s digital future.