On 9 March 2020 the Government announced that it had entered into an agreement with the four mobile operators to provide grant funding to deliver a ‘Shared Rural Network’. Under the terms of this agreement, each mobile operator has committed to providing good quality data and voice coverage to 88% of the landmass by 30 June 2024, and 90% by 30 June 2026, subject to certain conditions (including the provision of funding for elements of the programme).
The mobile operators have agreed to their 900 MHz and/or 1800 MHz licences being varied to give effect to these commitments in the form of new coverage obligations. Each operator has also agreed to meet certain coverage thresholds in each UK nation after four and six years, and provide a certain extent of new coverage in areas where roads and premises are located. Details of these commitments can be found in the licence copies published on the Mobile and Wireless Broadband below 5 GHz page.
Following the Government’s agreement with the four mobile network operators to develop the Shared Rural Network to improve mobile coverage, we have published the methodology we will use to measure mobile companies’ compliance with the coverage commitments in the agreement. Shared Rural Network Compliance Methodology (PDF, 434.2 KB)
Mobile Operators were required to submit Initial Radio Plans to Ofcom in August 2020, with Ofcom required to comment on whether these were plans developed on a reasonable basis which if delivered would meet the 2020 coverage obligations. Ofcom wrote to all MNOs with its assessment in November 2020:
In December 2014, the UK’s four Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) signed an agreement with Government committing to provide a voice service to 90% of the UK landmass by 31 December 2017. In January 2015, we set out our approach to compliance with this obligation (PDF, 241.2 KB). Under the terms of the agreement, the MNOs were required to self-certify, by 31 December 2017, that they had reached the 90% coverage requirement. All MNOs did this, and we have now completed our assessment of the information provided in support of these certifications of compliance and carried out additional tests to understand the basis on which the MNOs certified their compliance. On this basis, we can confirm that all four MNOs have complied with their geographic voice coverage licence obligation.
Separately, Telefónica UK Ltd (O2) was required under the terms of its 4G/800MHz licence, issued in 2013, to provide a minimum level of indoor data coverage to 98% of all UK premises by 31 December 2017, with a minimum of 95% in any of the four nations of the UK. We have now completed our assessment of O2’s compliance with this obligation in accordance with the methodology set out in our 4G Coverage Obligation: Notice of Compliance Verification Methodology statement (PDF, 1.0 MB) as amended in 2017. On this basis, we can confirm that O2 has also complied with its indoor data coverage obligation.
We have now written to all four UK MNOs confirming their compliance with these obligations. See copies of the letters we have sent:
In addition to Ofcom’s continuing research and work on improving coverage, we also publish information and interactive coverage maps to help keep consumers informed of the latest position.