EE brings 4G mobile coverage boost to rural communities across Northern Ireland
Oct 25, 2023
Residents and businesses across Northern Ireland are set to benefit from improved 4G mobile coverage following a series of network upgrades from EE.
EE has significantly expanded the reach of its 4G network by upgrading 139 locations across Northern Ireland as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN), a £1 billion initiative to extend 4G mobile connectivity to rural communities across the UK that need it most.
As part of its latest upgrades, EE – working in partnership with WHP Telecoms – has built a new mobile mast to deliver enhanced 4G coverage across the northern part of the Mid-Ulster district and the eastern part of the Sperrins - an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This includes the villages of Moneyneany and Draperstown, Spelhoagh Mountain, as well as large sections of the B40, A6 and Glenshane Pass – one of the highest mountain roads in Northern Ireland.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists and hikers visit the Sperrins and the surrounding towns and villages every year to enjoy its scenic beauty and local heritage, while there is also a thriving farming community. However, it is an area that has been poorly served with mobile coverage until now.
By the end of the SRN programme, EE will have upgraded or built 164 sites in Northern Ireland – including the potential for a further 10 new mast sites – to ensure rural communities have the fast and reliable 4G connectivity they need to thrive in the digital age.
The news has been welcomed by business leaders across Northern Ireland. Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), said: “The Shared Rural Network initiative has a strategically important role to play in delivering improved connectivity to businesses and more rural communities across Northern Ireland. To be competitive, businesses in all parts of NI need access to fast and reliable digital infrastructure, so this investment is very good news for the economy.
“The upgrades from EE will help businesses become better connected to their customers and suppliers, whilst also making everyday transactions like electronic payments, online marketing and banking operate more efficiently.”
These 4G upgrades come at an important time for countryside communities as the UK’s mobile providers prepare to retire 3G – and later 2G – networks. 4G connectivity offers countryside communities the biggest and most reliable network of any current mobile technology in the UK.
Under the Shared Rural Network programme, each of the four UK mobile operators has individual targets to meet which contribute to the overall aim of providing 4G coverage to 95 percent of the UK’s geographic landmass by the end of 2025.
Having upgraded more than 1,500 locations across the UK already, EE is on track to meet its UK-wide target of 88% 4G geographic coverage by June 2024.
For Northern Ireland specifically, 4G coverage from all mobile operators is targeted to rise to a minimum of 85% by the end of the programme, up from 79%. EE’s 4G network currently covers more than 88% of the country and is on track to reach 89% by the end of 2025 thanks to these new upgrades.
Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer at BT Group – parent company of EE, said: “The Shared Rural Network is having a positive impact on the lives of people who live and work in countryside communities across the UK. At EE we’re expanding the reach of our 4G network to deliver widespread and reliable connectivity rural areas can rely on.
“Northern Ireland is renowned for its rich history and heritage, as well as its thriving tourism and agricultural industries. Having boosted 4G connectivity across the country, we’re helping close the digital divide that exists between urban and rural communities and ensuring residents and businesses have the connectivity they need to thrive for decades to come.”
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