Virgin Media O2

Virgin Media O2 claims Shared Rural Network milestone

Community-owned island In the Hebrides becomes 150th site to benefit from improved mobile connectivity after operator deploys helicopters, boats and off-road vehicles to deliver and install a 4G mast to Isle of Eigg

Mobile network operator Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) has hit another significant landmark in its commitment to the UK’s £1.3bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) after rolling out enhanced 4G coverage to rural communities in the Scottish Hebrides islands.

The remote, community-owned Isle of Eigg, which has a population of less than 100, became the 150th site to benefit from improved mobile connectivity after VMO2 used boats, helicopters and off-road vehicles to install a new 4G mast on the island (pictured above). The island previously had coverage from just one provider. VMO2 said the upgrade offers businesses and residents greater choice and will help many visitors stay connected for the first time.

Launched in 2020, the £1.3bn SRN programme is a joint initiative between the UK’s four mobile network operators – EE, VMO2, Three and Vodafone – and the UK government to extend 4G connectivity to 95% of the UK’s landmass by the end of 2025. The founding principle is that through both public and private investment, new and existing phone masts will be built or upgraded across the UK to close down so-called rural mobile notspots.

Under the scheme, the four operators have committed to improving 4G coverage and levelling up connectivity across the UK, which has seen them invest in a shared network of new and existing phone masts, overseen by a jointly owned company called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL). The operators’ £532m investment is being complemented by more than £501m in government funding.

Of the 150 rural sites that have been built or upgraded by VMO2 so far, 117 are in some of Scotland’s most remote areas, including Shetland, Ardross, and Argyll and Bute. A further 28 are in rural parts of England, including Yorkshire, Suffolk and Kent, while three sites have been upgraded in Northern Ireland and one in Wales. 

VMO2 regards itself as having gone further than any other operator to date to deliver new infrastructure as part of the SRN programme. While the 150 improved sites are controlled by VMO2, customers of rival UK operators Three and Vodafone can also access services from the roll-out.

We are continuing our Shared Rural Network roll-out at pace to ensure more rural communities can access reliable mobile connectivity
Jeanie York, VMO2

After taking into account progress from all operators, VMO2 calculates that its customers can now benefit from reliable 4G services at more than 200 rural locations. 

“We are continuing our Shared Rural Network roll-out at pace to ensure more rural communities can access reliable mobile connectivity. Having delivered more sites than any other operator, our commitment to delivering this ambitious programme and levelling up rural areas is clear,” commented Jeanie York, chief technology officer at Virgin Media O2.

“The 150 sites we have delivered will enable more residents, businesses and visitors in rural areas to benefit from better mobile coverage, with dozens more locations set to go live in the coming weeks. This work is vital in tackling the urban-rural digital divide that exists in the UK.”

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