West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has welcomed the announcement from the four mobile network operators that will see £1billion invested to build a Shared Rural Network with 4G mobile coverage extended to 95% of the UK’s landmass.

MP Rosie was one of a group of 78 cross-party MPs representing rural constituencies urging the Government to support a proposal by the mobile industry to create the Shared Rural Network to extend mobile overage to hard to reach areas.

Writing to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy wright in July, MPs called on him to support the initiative which would significantly improve rural coverage and enhance economic, educational and leisure opportunities in rural areas where, in some cases, there is no coverage at all. 

The four Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) put forward a proposal for a Shared Rural Network after the MPs called on the Secretary of State to impose compulsory roaming between providers if the industry did not come up with its own solution.   

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said:
“The lack of mobile coverage in some of the most rural parts of West Lancashire leaves many constituents frustrated and cut off. The Shared Rural Network will vastly increase operational coverage for many constituents in both their working and home lives.

“The current inadequate digital connectivity has had a huge impact on growth for the local, regional and national economy and needs to be put right as soon as possible.

“I welcome this announcement because it will provide a much needed solution in a more efficient, more effective and a less environmentally impactful way than previous proposals.”

In Parliament, Rosie Cooper MP also signed Early Day Motion 2606 on Shared Rural Network backing the proposal developed by the UK’s four mobile operators and calling on the Government to back the Shared Rural Network by delivering the necessary support.

To help reach 95%, the Shared Rural Network proposal will be delivered by focusing on:

  • Firstly, an industry-funded element which will eliminate virtually all partial not-spots (i.e. where there is coverage from one or more operators, but not all), made possible by all four MNOs sharing each other’s infrastructure;
  • Secondly, new publicly funded infrastructure, to be shared by all four MNOs, to be built in areas of the country where there is currently no coverage (the total not-spots).

By further sharing infrastructure, the industry will be able to make maximum use out of existing and new phone masts by hosting all four MNOs equipment.

Commenting on the Shared Rural Network, Hamish MacLeod, Director at Mobile UK, said:
“The mobile industry has a shared commitment with the Government to invest in and accelerate rural coverage improvements, and I am delighted that with the Shared Rural Network, we have a proposal of action to deliver.

“Working in partnership with the Government, all four mobile operators, through a programme of shared infrastructure, will virtually eliminate partial not-spots and then go further to bring 4G coverage to the most rural parts of the UK. This is good news for consumers and businesses across the whole of the UK.”

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said:
“We are determined to make sure no part of the country is left behind when it comes to mobile connectivity. We are closing in on a deal with the mobile network operators so those living in rural areas will be able to get the fast and reliable mobile coverage they need and deserve.

“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.

“But it is not yet a done deal and I want to see industry move quickly so we can reach a final agreement early next year.”  

  1. Mobile UK is the trade association for the UK’s mobile network operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.
  2. Further information can be found at Mobile UK’s website here.
  3. The Shared Rural Network is a joint initiative between all four MNOs and the Government to deliver significantly improved rural coverage to rural areas of the United Kingdom.
  4. The proposals go further than Ofcom’s current proposed coverage obligations which would require only two operators to reach 90% 4G geographic coverage whereas the SRN would take all four to 92% and aggregate coverage to 95%.
  5. The Shared Rural Network includes a £530 million proposal from the UK’s mobile network operators (MNOs) with the potential for it to be matched by £500 million investment from Government.
  6. Government-owned mobile infrastructure built as part of the Emergency Services Network will also be made commercially available to all four operators, taking full advantage of government assets. This is expected to deliver up to an additional 2% of geographic coverage per operator, in some of the most remote, rural locations.
  7. The DCMS announcement can be found here.
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