UK project for 4G coverage faces delays

A project representing a £1 billion investment aiming to provide 4G coverage throughout the UK could now face a two-year delay, according to a new report.

Entitled the Shared Rural Network (SRN), the multiphase and industry-led project seeks to deliver dependable mobile broadband to around 95 per cent of the nation by 2027. However, project leads have previously stated that 4G coverage could be rolled out earlier, by the year 2025.

In the initial phase, four of the UK’s mobile network operators will invest £532 million to aid areas that currently enjoy coverage from just one operator, rather than all. The British government is investing £500 million to facilitate the second phase of the project, which will address areas of the UK with zero coverage.

Now, a report by The Telegraph newspaper has outlined that Three, Virgin Media and O2 Vodafone have asked for an extension from the UK government to extend the deadline of the first phase, which is June 2024 to June 2026. The reason cited for the project lag is that the mobile network operators will struggle to correct new masts to meet the deadline.

Sources close to the project added that planning approval, which in some cases had taken up to 500 days for certain sites and delays caused by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, had impacted the original timeframe set.

While acknowledging that delays have occurred and that an extension has been requested on the 4G rollout deadline for phase one, operators state that the project is still on course.