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Key milestones include:
As the Shared Rural Network (SRN) is part funded by public money, the programme had to be formally agreed and plans put in place for its delivery.
In March 2020 a Grant Agreement was signed between the UK Government and four mobile network operators (MNOs), setting out how the programme would be governed.
In the same month, Ofcom, the regulator, published ‘Coverage Obligations’, these are the commitments the four MNOs have agreed to, and must meet, as part of the Shared Rural Network programme. Additionally, Ofcom confirmed the way in which they meet these obligations will be verified through a ‘Notice of compliance verification methodology’.
In Summer 2020, the first part of the programme, which sees the four MNOs work together to tackle the issue of partial not-spots began with the first sites going live.
The MNOs also submitted their initial Radio Plans for the Shared Rural Network to Ofcom. These plans look at a wide range of variables and help plot out where an MNO anticipates placing a mast and shows the expected coverage it will deliver.
These plans are only a starting point, with masts often ending up in different locations once detailed site investigations have been carried out. This is why we are unable to say where exactly masts will go at this stage.
As 2020 progressed, a supplier day was held to start raising awareness of the Shared Rural Network and the procurement process needed as part of the publicly funded part of the programme.
Moving onto early 2021, under the industry led element of the programme, the MNOs announced their plans to bring more choice to consumers to address the issue of partial not-spots.
The publicly funded part of the programme, which looks at addressing total not-spot areas, formally commenced in March 2021 when the UK Government published a Transparency Notice, which sets out how the programme meets the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement subsidy control principles.
The public procurement process began in Spring 2021 and will continue as different services and suppliers to the programme are procured, you can read more about this process on our Procurement page. The search, acquisition and building of the publicly funded masts began in 2022 and will continue through to the end of the programme.
The Ofcom deadline for delivery of industry funded coverage improvements in partial not-spot areas is June 2024 and the deadline for delivery of publicly funded coverage improvements in total not-spot areas is early 2027, but it is expected coverage will be delivered to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025
On the publicly funded element of the programme, which involves providing coverage in the total-not-spots (TNS), the programme achieved a major milestone in the summer which saw the first TNS planning applications submitted. We will provide a rolling update of how many validated applications are in the planning system below. Many mast locations are still to be finalised before they can progress to the planning stage.
The past few months have seen survey teams from all four operators and their suppliers heading out on site to carry out on Kick Off Visits (KOVs) and Multi Skilled Visits (MSVs) to make final site assessments. Through these vital site visits we now expect to need fewer masts than originally planned, whilst still delivering the necessary coverage targets.
planning / acquisition phase