EE upgrading 4G services at over 500 sites

25 February 2021   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Mobile operator confirms their 4G service will be upgraded in more than 500 locations by the end of 2021.

469 sites will be upgraded this year to go along with the 110 already upgraded as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) agreement between operators and the Government.

England will benefit from 333 upgraded sites, accounting for 56% of the total number of upgrades, with a particular focus on the UK's National Parks and coasts.

EE say all 579 upgraded sites will be made available for other networks to use under the SRN agreement.

rural telecommunications tower

4G upgrades

In total, 579 areas will have extended 4G coverage by the end of 2021 compared to the situation when the SRN was signed in March 2020.

This is made up of 110 sites already upgraded in the last year and another 479 due to be upgraded by the end of this year.

The nation breakdown of the upgraded sites is:

  • 333 in England
  • 132 in Scotland
  • 76 in Wales
  • 38 in Northern Ireland

EE say they have extended 4G coverage in the UK's National Parks and coastal locations, as well as improving their road coverage across Great Britain to 94%.

First phase of SRN

These improvements are part of the first phase of the SRN programme agreed in principle in October 2019 and then finalised in early 2020.

This stage aims to eliminate partial not-spots or areas where there is currently 4G coverage from at least of the four mobile operators but not all of them.

EE's confirmation of their investment plans follows the joint announcement from O2, Vodafone and Three last month that 222 new sites would be installed by 2024.

The majority of those masts are set to be built in Scotland (124), with 54 in England, 33 in Wales and 11 in Northern Ireland.

It puts operators on course to reach their main targets for coverage of 88% UK landmass by 2024 and 90% by 2026.

There are also nation-specific coverage targets, with Scotland a major target. The goal there is to increase coverage from all operators to 74% when it currently stands at 42%.

Find out which is the best mobile network for coverage.

Improving rural coverage

The second stage of the SRN will involve the Government investing £500 million in areas where no operator currently offers coverage.

These remote locations are often the most financially prohibitive to reach for mobile networks, so the Government stepping in to help extend coverage there is vital, although no details have been released yet about the second phase.

Overall, the upgrades from networks and the Government will provide £1bn of improvements for customers in rural communities following years of discussions about poor rural mobile coverage and how to combat it.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business published a report in October 2018 with five clear recommendations to Government on how rural connectivity could be improved.

The fifth recommendation in that list was for mobile operators to work with the Government and Ofcom to produce a viable strategy for improving mobile coverage.

Thanks to the SRN, we're on our way towards that, although the final targets operators are expected to reach by 2026 will still leave swathes of remote areas of the UK without a reliable signal.

For example, coverage from at least one operator in Scotland is 80% today. Under the SRN plan, this will rise to 91% by 2026, a welcome improvement but one that will still lead to some remote communities missing out and rural roads lacking 4G coverage.

Find the best deal on a new handset

independent comparison

We are independent of all of the products and services we compare.

fair comparison

We order our comparison tables by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

charity donations and climate positive

We donate at least 5% of our profits to charity, and we have a climate positive workforce.

Get insider tips and the latest offers in our newsletter

Mobile Phone Deals

ee mobile phones
giffgaff mobile
o2 mobile phones
three mobile phones
vodafone mobile phones