First Areas To Benefit From £150m Government Rural Mobile Coverage Plan Revealed

windmill suffolk country rural © Douglas Freer shutterstock

First areas to receive improved mobile coverage will go live later this year

The first areas in the UK to benefit from a £150 million government investment in mobile phone coverage have been revealed, with the first sites set to go live by the end of the year.

The Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) was first announced by the Chancellor George Osborne in 2011, and aims to improve coverage in areas where there is no commercial case to do so, similar to the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative for fibre.

Arqiva won the contract to deliver the MIP earlier this year and is responsible for the full-scale mobile network rollout, including site acquisition and the deployment of infrastructure and equipment.

Rural mobile coverage

MIP rural broadband map © ArqivaIt has now identified a number of sites to be targeted as part of a five-phase rollout, including Cornwall, Northumberland, Strabane, Aberdeenshire and Powys. Up to 60,000 premises and sections of road will be covered as part of the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP), which it is claimed will help connect rural communities, create local jobs and contribute to national growth.

All four major UK operators, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, have backed the project and have committed to fund their own related operating costs for the 20 year life of the project.

Three’s participation had been in doubt because it said it would not be able to offer a good service with the spectrum it had at the time, but having secured valuable 800MHz bandwidth at the Ofcom 4G auction spectrum earlier this year, it has pledged its support.

4G boost

“Good mobile coverage brings real social and economic benefits to local communities,” said Dave Dyson, CEO of Three. “In areas where it is not commercially viable for operators to extend their networks, it is important that the industry and government work together to provide coverage to those communities.”

The government hopes MIP will improve so called rural ‘not-spots’ and forms part of its revised targets of achieving superfast broadband coverage of 95 percent by 2017 and 99 percent by 2018.

O2 won two 10MHz chunks of 800MHz spectrum at the auction, with one requiring it to provide a mobile broadband service to 98 percent of the UK population and at least 95 percent of the populations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“This project will see mobile phone coverage extended to many of the people who currently live and work in areas where there is none,” said communications minister Ed Vaizey. “The project will provide a significant boost to local economies across the UK, and will be instrumental in helping Britain win the global race.”

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