VMO2 hits high as it completes Shared Rural Network first phase

Glencoe Mountain Resort in Scotland becomes 227th site to gain improved 4G coverage as part of VMO2 roll-out

With the race on for operators to complete the first phase in the UK’s Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme to provide so-called hard-to-reach locations with enhanced mobile coverage before the 30 June deadline, Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) has announced it has successfully built its share of the first phase of the scheme at the Glencoe Mountain Resort.

The Scottish site has become the 227th to gain enhanced 4G coverage as part of VMO2’s roll-out schedule, marking the completion of the first phase of the SRN programme. The mountainous site stands at 1,108 metres above sea level, making the mast there the highest of its kind currently standing in the UK.

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.

To deliver the required connectivity at Glencoe Mountain Resort, VMO2 used helicopters to deliver a 4G mast to the top of the mountain, greatly improving safety and convenience for its many visitors.

The operator faced significant challenges building the remote site, with extreme weather conditions making delivery exceptionally difficult. On top of this, Glencoe is a National Nature Reserve and home to endangered species, including golden eagles and ptarmigans. For the deployment, VMO2 worked with build partner WHP Telecoms to deliver the site in five weeks.

VMO2 regards itself as having gone further than any other operator to date to deliver new infrastructure as part of the SRN programme, building more shared sites than any other operator to improve mobile coverage. While the improved sites are controlled by VMO2, customers of rival UK operators Three and Vodafone can also access services from the roll-out. Considering upgrades delivered by all operators, VMO2 customers can now access 4G services in more than 300 former coverage black spots.

Read more about the Shared Rural Network

Of the rural sites that have been built or upgraded by VMO2 so far, the majority have been in some of Scotland’s most remote areas, including Shetland, Ardross, and Argyll and Bute.

Jeanie York, chief technology officer at VMO2, said: “We are absolutely committed to bringing reliable mobile connectivity to more rural communities and have now completed the first phase of our SRN roll-out.

“Our 227th site at Glencoe is now the highest mast in the UK and one of the most impressive to date, standing over a kilometre above sea level and providing connectivity to the nearby ski resort. This work is vital in tackling the urban-rural digital divide that exists in the UK.”

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