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Mobile network operator O2 has announced an enhanced 4G roll-out across 339 of the UK’s remotest communities over the next two months, bringing mobile broadband to up to 250,000 people and boosting local business revenues by up to £141m, according to research commissioned by the telco.
The study and associated socioeconomic modelling was conducted by researchers at Development Economics using existing data inputs and information held by O2 on the state of current connectivity levels in each of the 339 targeted communities.
It found that across an estimated 14,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) located in and around these communities, the projected revenue boost would eventually be associated with a £45m per annum increase in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy, and would increase employment by 31%.
“We know mobile has the power to make a real, positive difference to people’s lives and businesses in rural communities across Britain,” said Derek McManus, COO at O2 parent Telefónica UK. “That’s why we’re proud to be investing in 4G connectivity for more than 330 rural areas by the end of this year.”
The study found that the tourism and hospitality industries looked set to get the most benefit from rural 4G roll-outs, with turnover expected to grow by almost £60m, while manufacturing and transport were also expected to gain by around £24m and £15m respectively.
“Technology never stands still, which is why we are always looking for the right partners and investing in our future network,” said McManus. “Whether trialling 5G to support a future-proof, mobile Britain, or ensuring the remotest parts of rural Britain can connect to 4G, for O2, this is about continuing to invest in all areas – not one at the cost of the other.”
Digital minister Margot James added: “4G coverage is improving all the time, but there’s more to do, particularly in rural areas. We’ve already reformed planning laws to make it easier and cheaper to install and upgrade digital infrastructure, and it’s great to see O2 and the rest of industry responding to ensure more people in rural Britain can share the brilliant benefits of 4G connectivity.”
Read more about rural mobile coverage
- Earlier in 2018 the Rural Business All-Party Parliamentary Group called on the government to put legally binding targets in place for 4G mobile network coverage.
- Lack of access to reliable broadband and mobile networks threatens rural livelihoods after Brexit, according to a Local Government Association report.
Residents of the remote community of Staylittle in Powys – who were connected to 4G services by O2 for the first time last year during a similar roll-out, said the impact of finally receiving up-to-date mobile services was transformative.
Local farmer Anne Griffith said: “4G mobile connectivity has improved the way my business operates and it’s really helped us grow, as we can now speak to potential customers even when we’re out on the fields.”
Gary Mitchell, chairman of the South and Mid-Wales rescue team, credited improved connectivity as a critical tool for saving lives. “4G mobile connectivity has allowed us to respond faster to calls and locate people more quickly,” he said.