Shared Rural Network

Government upgrade delivers new 4G coverage in Monmouthshire

7 May 2024: Rural towns and villages in Monmouthshire, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are benefiting are benefiting from faster, more reliable mobile coverage as government-funded 4G network upgrades were switched on.

Eight government-funded mast upgrades have now been activated as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) – a £1 billion programme brokered by the government and joint-funded with mobile network operators to improve mobile coverage in rural areas.  This includes six in Wales.

It means residents, local businesses and community organisations in areas including Abergavenny, Portishead and Severn Beach can now take advantage of better connectivity.

The boost has been carried out by upgrading existing mobile masts which previously only connected EE customers and anyone making 999 calls, meaning communities can benefit from improved connectivity without the visual impact involved when building new masts.

It will enable residents, tourists and businesses to access reliable 4G coverage from all four mobile network operators – EE, VMO2, Three and Vodafone – closing the digital divide between urban and rural communities and boosting economic growth in the region.

UK Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said:

“We’re ramping up fast and reliable mobile coverage across the UK through the UK government’s Shared Rural Network plan. Our latest upgrade in Monmouthshire is one of many we’re working hard to deliver as part of our mission to solve the headache of mobile ‘not spots’.

“From Abergavenny to Usk and Raglan to Caldicot, this coverage boost will provide endless benefits for communities and visitors, ensuring people stay connected on the go, allowing them to work more efficiently, and attracting vital investment to the rural economy.”

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said:

“It’s great to see people in rural Wales benefit from improved 4G coverage, with six upgraded masts already delivering fast reliable coverage, and more in the pipeline.

“The UK government is proud to invest in the Shared Rural Network. We know how vital it is for residents, businesses and visitors to have good digital connections, helping to boost the economy in these areas and close the digital divide that can exist between rural and urban areas.”

 Ben Roome, CEO of Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL) said:

“Since the Shared Rural Network was announced in March 2020, an additional 1300 square kilometres of Wales are now predicted to have good 4G service from all four mobile operators – that’s an area almost the size of the preserved county of Gwent. As more shared mobile sites go live, people visiting and living in rural areas will benefit from the improved coverage we’re delivering.”

Since the Shared Rural Network programme began in 2020, an additional 14,800 square kilometres – an area roughly the size of Northern Ireland or two million football pitches – are receiving coverage from all four operators, EE, Three, VMO2 and Vodafone.

Through the SRN programme, the government and the UK’s four mobile network operators aim to provide 4G coverage to an additional 280,000 premises and 16,000km of the UK’s roads.

The programme also aims to improve 4G geographic coverage to 79% of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, up from 51% before the programme launched, and 74% of National Parks up from 41%, benefitting millions of visitors every year.

The UK government is investing around £500 million into the Shared Rural Network, including £184 million to upgrade Extended Area Service (EAS) masts to provide coverage from all four mobile operators. Currently, commercial coverage from EAS masts is only available from EE – the operator responsible for the Emergency Services Network. The remaining government funding will go towards eliminating total ‘not spots’, places where there is no coverage from any mobile operator.

Mobile operators are also investing over £500 million to target partial ‘not spots’, where customers can only access 4G if they’re signed up with a mobile network operator that is active in the area. This part of the programme has already delivered significant coverage improvements across the UK, including in the areas of Shetland, Yorkshire, Fermanagh and Devon.

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