Advanced Television

VMO2’s Shared Rural Network connectivity boost

May 15, 2023

By Colin Mann

UK multiplay operator Virgin Media O2 has delivered 4G connectivity across 50 sites as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme, providing residents, businesses and visitors in rural communities with faster and more reliable mobile coverage than ever before.

The SRN is a £1 billion (€1.15bn) joint initiative between mobile network operators and the UK Government to extend 4G connectivity to 95 per cent of the UK’s landmass by the end of 2025.

Helmsdale, a village in the Scottish Highlands, became the 50th site to benefit from 4G connectivity after Virgin Media O2 upgraded an existing mast in the area.

Of the 50 rural sites that have been built or upgraded so far, 39 are in remote parts of Scotland – including 10 in the Argyll and Bute region – while 11 are in eastern parts of England, including rural parts of Yorkshire, Suffolk and Kent.

The upgrades have delivered faster and more reliable data speeds and higher quality voice calls in areas with previously patchy or slow services.

“We are investing heavily in our network to ensure we’re offering fast and reliable mobile coverage to customers in all parts of the UK,” advised Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2. “We know many rural communities are unable to access the same level of connectivity as urban areas, so we’re committed to delivering improvements through the Shared Rural Network programme.”

“Boosting connectivity at 50 sites is a real milestone and means more residents, businesses and tourists in rural areas can benefit from better mobile coverage. In the weeks and months ahead we’ll continue pushing forward with our rural investments, building new masts and upgrading existing ones across various remote UK locations as we work to tackle the urban-rural digital divide.”

In addition to the 50 sites that are now live, Virgin Media O2 has secured planning consent for works at a further 100 sites, meaning work can start in the near future.

“By providing fast and reliable 4G coverage through our joint £1 billion Shared Rural Network programme, Virgin Media O2 is providing rural businesses and homes with new opportunities in the digital age and supporting economic growth across the UK – a top priority for the Prime Minister,” commented John Whittingdale, Minister of State for Digital Infrastructure.

“I look forward to further progress in connecting the most remote areas of the UK, and ensuring everyone has the mobile signal they need to work, shop or stay in touch with family and friends.”

Rural parts of Scotland have been the greatest beneficiaries of Virgin Media O2’s rollout to date, with 39 masts either installed or upgraded. Around a quarter of these are in Argyll and Bute, while further connectivity improvements have been delivered in Aberdeenshire, the Scottish Borders, the Hebrides, the Highlands, Stirling, Fife, Dumfries, East Lothian and Perth and Kinross.

“Representing rural and remote communities across Moray and the Highlands and Islands, means I am acutely aware of how important improvements in mobile connectivity are for people and businesses in our area,” said Douglas Ross, MSP for Highlands and Islands and Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.

“It is welcome to see that Virgin Media O2 have now rolled out this better coverage across so many sites in areas I represent both as a MP and MSP.”

“In particular, I am delighted that Buckie is one of the areas now benefitting from these new networks. This will help to support local businesses as well as residents frustrated with poor mobile signal.”

“I am committed to continuing to push for further boosts in mobile and broadband connectivity throughout our rural and remote communities.”

Through the Shared Rural Network, 84 per cent of the UK will benefit from 4G coverage from all four mobile network operators, with 95 per cent having 4G connectivity provided by at least one operator.


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