British mobile operator EE has announced that it will upgrade 4G in more than 500 areas in 2021 as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) initiative to extend coverage in rural areas across the UK. In a press release EE noted that it has already upgraded its 4G infrastructure in 110 areas since the SRN deal was signed in March 2020, adding that upgrades in a further 469 locations will follow by the end of this year, meaning a total of 579 areas will benefit from extended 4G coverage from the cellco by the end of 2021. In terms of regional breakdown, EE outlined that 333 locations are in England, 132 in Scotland, 76 in Wales, and 38 in Northern Ireland. In addition, it said that all new sites have been made available for the nation’s other MNOs to share under the scheme.
Commenting, Philip Jansen, Chief Executive of EE’s parent company BT Group, said: ‘The investment BT has made in rural areas to date means we already have the infrastructure in place needed to extend our 4G coverage footprint further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build. There are many places where EE is the only provider with 4G coverage today, offering the other operators an opportunity to share our existing sites to plug gaps in their networks and improve mobile performance for everyone.’
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, the SRN is a GBP1 billion (USD1.4 billion) programme aimed at improving rural mobile coverage and was agreed by MNOs, the government and Ofcom in March 2020. Funded by the mobile industry and the state, investment will be made in new and existing phone masts to increase all operators’ 4G coverage to at least 90% of UK landmass and their aggregate coverage to 95% by 2026. It is anticipated that the programme will provide guaranteed coverage to an additional 280,000 premises and 16,000km of roads and boost ‘in car’ coverage.