Mobile coverage obligations

23 April 2024

Information about mobile network operators' obligations to provide good quality data and voice coverage across the UK.

2020 voice and data coverage obligations (SRN)

On 9 March 2020 the UK Government announced that it had entered into an agreement with the four mobile network operators (MNOs) – EE Limited (EE), Hutchison 3G UK Limited (Three), Telefónica UK Limited (O2) and Vodafone Limited (Vodafone) – to grant funding for a Shared Rural Network (SRN).

Under the terms of this agreement, each of the four MNOs has committed to provide good quality data and voice coverage to 88% of the country's landmass by 30 June 2024, and 90% by 31 January 2027.

The MNOs 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 (the '2020 coverage obligations'). Each operator has also agreed to meet certain coverage thresholds in each UK nation by 30 June 2024 and 31 January 2027, and provide a certain extent of new coverage in areas where roads and premises are located.

Copies of the individual licences containing these obligations are available on Ofcom's website.

How we measure compliance

The UK Government negotiated the 2020 coverage obligations, and Ofcom is responsible for monitoring their delivery.

In March 2020, we published our methodology for measuring operators' compliance with these coverage obligations. We updated this methodology in July 2021 and February 2024 to reflect changes that the operators and the Government had made to the Grant Agreement.

Shared Rural Network (SRN) compliance methodology (PDF, 341.2 KB)

Initial radio plans

In August 2020, the Government required MNOs to submit initial radio plans to Ofcom, to show how they would meet the SRN coverage commitments. We assessed these plans and wrote to each operator in November 2020:

General voice coverage obligation

In December 2014, the UK’s four MNOs signed an agreement with the Government committing to provide a voice service to 90% of the UK landmass by 31 December 2017. This is known as the General Voice Coverage Obligation (GVCO).

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.

O2's indoor data coverage obligation

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.

In 2018, we assessed 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.

2018 compliance assessment

In March 2018, we wrote to all four MNOs confirming their compliance with the GVCO and, in the case of O2, also its indoor data coverage obligation:

2013 data coverage obligation

There remains also a coverage requirement in the 2100 MHz licences (which replaced the old 3G coverage condition) for licensees to maintain the capability of providing (with a 90% probability) a sustained downlink speed of not less than 768kbps in a lightly loaded cell to an area within which lives at least 90% of the population of the UK.