95% of the UK is set to receive high-quality 4G coverage by 2025, thanks to a potential £1 billion deal from the UK Government.
A proposal for a Shared Rural Network, meaning a world-first deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, would create a network of new and existing phone masts shared by the network operators.
This £530 million proposal from the UK’s mobile network operators has the potential to be matched by £500 million investment from the UK Government.
Consumers will be able to rely on their own provider’s network to use their mobile phones wherever they are.
Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said: "We are determined to make sure no part of the country is left behind when it comes to mobile connectivity.
"We are closing in on a deal with the mobile network operators so those living in rural areas will be able to get the fast and reliable mobile coverage they need and deserve.
“Brokering an agreement for mast sharing between networks alongside new investment in mobile infrastructure will mean people get good 4G signal no matter where they are or which provider they’re with.
“But it is not yet a done deal and I want to see industry move quickly so we can reach a final agreement early next year.”
Under the proposal, the four operators will invest £530 million to open up and share existing masts and infrastructure to close almost all partial not-spots - areas where there is currently only coverage from at least one but not all operators. It would also mean additional mobile coverage for 280,000 premises and 16,000 kilometres of roads.
If the operators agree to meet these ambitions on partial not spots, the Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan has been clear government will commit up to £500 million of investment to go even further to eliminate total not-spots - those hard-to-reach areas where there is currently no coverage from any operator.
UK Government-owned mobile infrastructure built as part of the Emergency Services Network will also be made available to all four operators, taking full advantage of government assets. This is expected to contribute to the coverage target by delivering up to an additional 2% of geographic coverage per operator, in some of the most remote, rural locations.
The Shared Rural Network proposal is subject to legal agreement. The UK Government’s ambition is to reach a formal agreement on it early next year.
UK Government Minister, Robin Walker, said: “Connectivity is vital to a strong economy and everyone should have access to this regardless of where they live and work. The UK Government is working with the mobile network providers to extend the access of high quality 4G coverage across all four nations.
“In Scotland coverage is predicted to more than double from 41% to 85% by 2025 as a result of the deal negotiated by the UK Government. It will ensure that people and businesses across Scotland can utilise the best quality connectivity, regardless of location or provider.
“We are committed to investing in the digital infrastructure needed to improve rural connectivity.’