Borders MP welcomes £1bn initiative to end mobile phone coverage blackspots

Borders MP John Lamont has welcomed a £1bn initiative to get rid of mobile phone coverage blackspots in rural areas such as much of the Borders.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 11:00 pm
UK Government digital secretary Nicky Morgan's announcement today of a scheme intended to eliminate almost all mobile phone blackspots has been welcomed by Borders MP John Lamont. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The shared rural network scheme announced by the UK Government’s department for culture, media and sport today, October 25, aims to make 4G phone signal available in all but 5% of the UK within six years.

The scheme, billed as a world first, will require the UK’s four biggest mobile phone operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone –to share their existing masts and invest together in a network of new ones also for shared use.

That move will be paid for by £530m from the networks, almost matched by £500m from the UK Government.

Borders MP John Lamont.

Commercial operators will also be allowed to use the Home Office’s network of almost 300 masts across the UK currently reserved for the emergency services.

The scheme is intended to provide additional mobile phone coverage for 280,000 homes and nearly 10,000 miles of road by 2025, eliminating signal blackspots in 95% of the UK’s landmass.

Latest Ofcom data shows that barely half of the Borders has access to 4G signal from all four main operators and that almost a sixth of the region either gets voice signal coverage from just one operator or none at all.

Scotland is expected to be among the parts of the UK set to benefit most from the initiative, and that has been welcomed by Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont.

“A lack of mobile phone signal is a huge source of frustration for far too many communities in the Borders,” he said.

“This new £1bn scheme, backed by £500m from the UK Government will finally fix the problem of mobile phone black spots.

“Mast-sharing between networks will mean people get good 4G signal no matter where they are or which provider they’re with.

“I hope this deal can be finalised quickly and work begins very soon.

“A lack of mobile signal is holding businesses back, it’s frustrating for visitors and it is also really unfair for consumers who pay the same as everyone else for a worse service – and a lack of signal means people are unable to switch providers.”

Announcing the initiative today, UK Government digital secretary Nicky Morgan said she is hopeful that it will yield the breakthrough those living in rural areas have been waiting years for but also sounded a note of caution by warning that nothing is set in stone yet.

“We are determined to make sure no part of the country is left behind when it comes to mobile connectivity,” said the Loughborough MP.

“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.”