Mobile operators to build and share 200 new masts to boost phone signal

Three of the UK’s biggest mobile network operators have unveiled plans to build and share more than 200 new mobile masts in an effort to improve phone signal in rural areas.

O2, Three and Vodafone will build and share usage of 222 new masts across the UK as part of the Shared Rural Network programme.

The scheme, which is backed by the Government and regulator Ofcom, will begin this year and is expected to be completed by 2024, with 124 set to be built in Scotland, 33 in Wales, 11 in Northern Ireland and 54 in England with each operator leading on 74 of the new sites.

The firms say the scheme will increase 4G mobile coverage in rural areas dramatically across all four nations.

The Government has also pledged to spend more than £500 million to even further eliminate signal “not-spots”, which combined with the Shared Rural Network scheme will see every mobile operator giving coverage to 90% of the UK landmass.

Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, said: “I’m delighted to see major progress being made to banish ‘not-spots’ of poor or patchy mobile coverage.

“This new infrastructure will unlock the potential of rural communities in all four nations and offer greater choice of fast and reliable 4G services.

“As part of this new Shared Rural Network the Government is also investing half a billion pounds on new masts in areas without any signal at all meaning no one is left behind.”

O2 chief executive Mark Evans said the new network was a “more collaborative way” of improving “mobile digital connectivity” and praised the scheme’s ability to support “individuals, businesses and communities across rural Britain”.

Three boss Robert Finnegan said connectivity was “absolutely critical” for communities around the UK and that the rollout of the Shared Rural Network would have a “transformative effect”.

Vodafone chief executive Nick Jeffery added that the “only way to fill the holes in the UK’s mobile coverage is to work together”.