EE is to upgrade 4G coverage in more than 150 rural locations across Northern Ireland by June 2024, as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme agreed last year.
The Shared Rural Network – an agreement between the UK’s four mobile network operators and UK Government – is aiming to extend 4G coverage to 95% of the UK’s geography by 2025.
The upgrades announced today are part of the first phase of the SRN programme, where EE will invest to significantly reduce ‘partial not-spots’ in mobile coverage.
EE has already upgraded its 4G network in 42 rural locations across Northern Ireland since the SRN deal was signed in March 2020. Today, EE has pledged to extend 4G in a further 125 locations in Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 167 in this phase of the programme. All sites have been made available for other operators to share under the SRN scheme.
The 125 rural locations that will get 4G upgrades between now and June 2024 are spread across Northern Ireland, including:
- 31 locations in Down
- 29 locations in Antrim
- 15 in Tyrone
- 14 locations in Derry
- 12 locations in Armagh
- 6 locations in Fermanagh
Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) deputy president David Brown said: “This progress on the Shared Rural Network is good news that will be well received by our members. We’ve long called for improvements to 4G coverage in rural areas and these 4G upgrades will be vital for farming businesses and rural communities across Northern Ireland.
“Our industry is continuing to adopt new digital technologies to help improve farm efficiency and productivity, with many application processes moving online. Having access to fast and reliable connectivity is going to be an essential part of farming’s future and it’s vital that farmers can gain online access without any difficulty.”
UK Government Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: “We know the incredible impact better connectivity will have on countryside communities. That’s why we struck a £1 billion deal, jointly funded by the government and mobile firms, to bring fast and reliable 4G mobile coverage to 95 per cent of the UK.
“EE’s plans show good progress and will increase choice for consumers and boost productivity in rural areas. We will continue to work closely with them to close down further gaps in rural mobile signal.”
Philip Jansen, Chief Executive of BT Group, said: “Today we’ve made a renewed commitment to boost rural connectivity, helping improve mobile performance regardless of location. The investment BT has made in rural areas means we have the infrastructure in place to extend our 4G coverage footprint even further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build to ensure everyone has access to reliable connectivity.
“EE is still the only provider of 4G coverage in many places across the UK, and we encourage other operators to recognise the opportunity sharing our sites offers to fill gaps in their networks.”
Across the UK, 853 areas have already been upgraded since the SRN deal was signed – 42 in Northern Ireland, 449 in England, 265 in Scotland and 97 in Wales. Based on today’s announcement, EE has pledged to extend 4G in a further 1,532 locations across the UK by mid-2024 – 125 in Northern Ireland, 925 in England, 359 in Scotland and 123 in Wales – totalling 2,385.