Mobile cellphone protection rollout falling behind in rural UK – new report | Politics | News | EUROtoday

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The Daily Express highlighted how businesses and families in rural England are struggling

The Daily Express highlighted how companies and households in rural England are struggling (Image: ADAM GERRARD)

Plans to increase 4G cell connectivity and broaden client selection in rural areas beneath a £1billion scheme are delayed, based on a brand new National Audit Office (NAO) report.

It comes after the Daily Express highlighted how companies and households in rural England are struggling due to poor cell sign.

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) is a joint programme funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and the UK’s 4 cell community operators (MNOs): EE, Virgin Media, O2, Three and Vodafone.

Mobile cellphone giants Vodafone and Three are planning a UK merger which they declare will “close the rural digital divide”.

But the official NAO report printed at present warns it isn’t clear the SRN scheme will hit its goal of reaching 95% 4G cell protection throughout the UK landmass by December 2025.

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As a results of value pressures, the cell phone corporations could not be capable to ship the extent of protection required throughout the present funding, which incorporates £501million of Government funding, and £532million of personal sector funding – £1.033billion in complete.

Helen Morgan, MP for agricultural North Shropshire, is now urging a change within the regulation to finish “not-spots” and drive telecoms companies to behave.

She advised the Daily Express: “I’m disappointed, but not surprised, to see the Shared Rural Network running so far behind schedule.

“Almost anyone who lives in rural Shropshire could have told you they’ve not seen the improvements we were promised.

“Mobile signal is still a lottery across swathes of Shropshire and there are too many places where you can’t get signal at all.

“Combined with the phasing out of copper wire landlines, the Government are letting down rural communities when it comes to connectivity.

“The Government needs to act to end total not-spots and, if the telecoms firms aren’t playing their part to end partial not-spots, the law should change to bring in rural roaming and make them share their signal.

“That has to be the ultimatum, or we will see more and more rural areas left behind.”

Helen Morgan, MP for agricultural North Shropshire

Helen Morgan, MP for agricultural North Shropshire (Image: PARLIAMENT.TV)

Conservative MP for West Dorset Chris Loder mentioned: “Whether or not the mobile connectivity programme is on time is irrelevant to Ofcom enforcing the Universal Service Obligation for those who have no connectivity. Ofcom’s own data is false.

“They say that a village is connected or receives a signal when it doesn’t.

“Operators are being allowed to get away with it too.

“And as an immediate step, this should be addressed while the SRN programme catches up.”

Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Dyke mentioned: “I was disappointed but not surprised that the National Audit Office announced today (22 February) that the government’s plans to extend 4G mobile connectivity and broaden consumer choice in rural areas were behind schedule.

“I pointed out in a parliamentary debate last month that we needed to see much faster progress with the Shared Rural Network.

“My constituents in Somerton and Frome are being left behind. Good quality mobile connectivity is key to growing the UK economy but, as with so much else, the government is failing to deliver.”

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Campaigners in West Dorset fighting for better connectivity in their idyllic village of Stoke Abbott

Campaigners in West Dorset combating for higher connectivity of their idyllic village of Stoke Abbott (Image: ADAM GERRARD )

Meanwhile campaigners in West Dorset combating for higher connectivity of their idyllic village of Stoke Abbott have welcomed the report.

John Foot, chair of the Stoke Abbott Connectivity Action Group, mentioned: “We welcome this call for improved oversight of MNOs.

“It’s been clear from the beginning of our campaign that the SRN is unable even to identify areas where 4G provision is lacking, owing to their insistence that data provided by MNOs is accurate.

“Time and time again we have demonstrated that it’s wholly inaccurate in our case.

“It is about time the Government and MNOs started taking the problem of rural connectivity seriously, with adequate and mandated investment to rectify this scandalous state of affairs.

“Would such discrimination be tolerated in health or education for example? No, it wouldn’t.

“It is hugely disappointing that, while continuing to fund the rollout of 5G in profitable areas, the digital poverty of many rural communities remains dangerously ignored.”

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, mentioned: “Demand for mobile data access is expected to increase as data-intensive services become more popular and new technologies enable new uses, and government has set out a clear ambition for improved connectivity.

“It is unclear whether the Shared Rural Network programme will achieve its coverage target on time; costs are higher than anticipated; and government has not clearly articulated the benefits of aspects of the programme, including increased connectivity in sparsely populated areas.

“As government develops its 5G strategy, it will need to more clearly define what it is aiming to achieve in different parts of the UK and economic sectors, so that limited resources can be targeted where they deliver most value.”

A Vodafone spokesman mentioned: “Vodafone’s commitment to the Shared Rural Network will help deliver reliable 4G mobile broadband to 95% of the UK, and we have successfully introduced 4G to nearly 160 rural locations as part of the project.

“We continue to engage with Building Digital UK (BDUK) and Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT), about challenges and delays outside of our control, but we remain on track to hit the Government’s target of early 2027.

“Under our proposed merger with Three UK, we plan to go even further by accelerating the roll-out of our 5G infrastructure. We would close the rural digital divide, reaching more than 99% of the UK population with our advanced 5G standalone network by 2034 – helping drive economic growth, innovation and creating jobs in all nations and regions.”

A DSIT spokesperson mentioned: “This is premature. The programme remains on track to deliver 95% UK 4G coverage by the end of 2025, with coverage already available across 93% of UK landmass.

“We will continue to work with mobile network operators to ensure the programme is delivered on time and that the crucial coverage improvements are delivered across rural parts of the country.”