4G masts switched on in Wales aiming to close the digital divide and spur economic growth

This month, March 2024, 86 4G masts have been switched on in Wales. The forms part of the UK government-funded Shared Rural Network (SRN), a £1billion plan to boost mobile connectivity.

A reminder that the Shared Rural Network (SRN) is a deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to invest in a network of new and existing phone masts, overseen by Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited. Through this, the UK government set out an ambition to achieve 95% 4G mobile coverage across the UK landmass by December 2025 - up from 91.4% when the programme launched in March 2020. 

However, the National Audit Office noted in February 2024 that the programme is behind schedule, and that it is unclear whether the expansion of 4G mobile connectivity in rural areas will be delivered on time. techUK continues to hear from members on the cost pressures and delayed planning system impacting investment and delivery timelines.

Showcasing the enabling effect of mobile connectivity, the first of 86 4G masts switched on in Wales will hope to benefit residents, tourists, and business owners and boost economic growth in areas such as Pont-rhyd-y-groes, Ysbyty Ystwyth, LLanafan,Tynygraig, and West Fedw and Trawsgoed. 

Where do we stand on the UK government's mobile connectivity ambitions?

Future mobile connectivity plans were outlined in the UK government's 2023 Wireless Infrastructure Strategy (WIS). Many techUK members welcomed the strategy, with targets and aims to kick-start investment and innovation in 5G infrastructure. The WIS also set out the new ambition for standalone 5G in all populated areas by 2030. But, one year on, we want to take stock of what has already been delivered, and what more needs to be done to enable future connectivity. At techUK's upcoming webinar on 16 April, we will be convening industry to delve deeper into this.

techUK continues to bring together key connectivity players to establish key barriers to the rollout and uptake of digital infrastructure and connectivity. Through our Telecoms Infrastructure Working Group, we collate insight on current policy and regulatory challenges. Key messages continue to voice the need for UK government departments to treat telecoms as a sector with significant economic value and national importance. In line with this, the next government must realise where digital connectivity meets their objectives - including the adoption of future cutting edge technology across industry and increased social inclusion.

There is no doubt that access to good quality mobile connectivity is key to growing the UK economy and tackling the digital divide. But the right incentives must be in place to enable this. This includes classifying strategic digital infrastructure as nationally significant and the need for a longer-term R&D strategy. 

Last week's call on tightening rules to broadband poles also made clear that collaboration between industry, communities and local authorities is paramount for mobile connectivity delivery and to meet local needs. Along with collaboration, techUK continues to hear from members on the need to improve mobile network economics to deliver 5G ambitions by anchoring next-generation spending and confirming/codifying a di-minimis approach to small cells/network densification. As well as enabling quicker and more efficient delivery of economic benefits, including completing PSTI and ECC implementation.

As outlined in our UK Tech Plan, to drive further investment and ensure uptake of both gigabit-capable and 5G technology, techUK continues to call for the next Government to work with the telecoms sector to devise a new strategy that includes targets to achieve 85% full fibre take-up by 2030 and encourage the widespread adoption of standalone 5G across businesses.


Sophie Greaves

Sophie Greaves

Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

Mia Haffety

Mia Haffety

Programme Manager - Telecoms and Net Zero, techUK

Tales Gaspar

Tales Gaspar

Programme Manager, UK SPF and Satellite, techUK

Matthew Wild

Programme Assistant - Markets, techUK

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techUK's Communications Infrastructure Programme brings together government, the regulator, telecom companies and its stakeholders around four themes; shared infrastructure, security and resilience, unlicensed spectrum and our 5G ecosystem. We do so to lower the cost to the sector of deployment, ensure confidence in networks, spur innovation and unlock value for all parties in 5G. This is delivered through a mix of thought leadership, multilateral engagement and ecosystem building.

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techUK champions the tech sector throughout the UK. We work with local authorities, devolved government, and local and national policy makers to advocate for the tech sector in strengthening economic growth and resilience. We provide opportunities for our members and local stakeholders to meet, build relationships, and collaborate to drive forward local projects. For more information or to get in touch, please visit our Nations and Regions Hub and click ‘contact us’. 

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