Farmers in the UK are delighted by the news that a £1bn deal has been agreed between the government and mobile operators to improve coverage in rural areas.
Improving mobile signal in rural spots
Dubbed the Shared Rural Network (SRN), the new agreement will see farmers across the country enjoy better mobile signal and connectivity through strong 4G coverage, irrespective of their network provider. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will likely see the biggest improvements from the deal, which plans to provide 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025.
The SRN comprises the four big mobile players, EE, 02, Three and Vodafone, who have all agreed to invest in and share a network of new and existing mobile phone masts, which will be overseen by a jointly owned company, Digital Mobile Spectrum Ltd. The four networks have signed legally binding documents committing £532m to the deal and the government has pledged a further £500m in order to eliminate ‘not-spots’.
The Countryside Alliance, a British organisation dedicated to highlighting issues surrounding the countryside, including farming and rural services, have welcomed the new deal. Sarah Lee, a representative of the Countryside Alliance, said: “Addressing poor mobile signal in remote areas is vital if the rural economy and communities within are to thrive.” However, she hints at possible delays in the role out, saying: “the key thing from here is to ensure this vision becomes a reality for those living and working in rural communities, so the next step is making sure it is delivered without further delay.” Ofcom will be keeping tabs on progress and will have the power to fine an operator up to 10% of their gross revenue if they fail to meet targets.
Poor signal biggest barrier to ambitious farmers
A survey conducted by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) found that while 84% of smartphone users had access to 4G, just 41% believed this signal was good enough for their business needs. Deputy President of NFU, Stuart Roberts, believes poor mobile signal is the biggest barrier for farmers hoping to improve productivity and utilise digital technology. He said: “With the industry facing so much uncertainty, it’s clear that farmers need as many tools as possible to maintain business resilience, and having access to digital connectivity is paramount if they are to compete with our international neighbours in the global market.”