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Scottish Firms Set to Benefit from Shared Rural Network Rollout

David Paul

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UK Broadband Speeds network

Businesses in Scotland and areas of the hospitality sector will enjoy the largest gains, with a £78.8 million and £79 million financial boost.

A new report commissioned by O2 has revealed that the first phase of the new Shared Rural Network (SRN) could boost rural business turnover by £187.7 million.

Data showed that most of the funds would go to rural Scottish firms, as well as the struggling hospitality sector.

The rollout will also mean rural communities could contribute around £58.9m to UK GDP each year, according to the report.

The SRN was announced in late January 2021 and is the first phase of the DCMS-backed initiative. Telecoms firms O2, Three and Vodafone say they aim to “bring an end to partial not-spots,” and bring the proportion of the UK with access to 4G networks from 67% to 84%.

O2’s Development Economics report found that around 28% of the financial gains in business turnover and productivity are expected to occur in rural Scotland, valued at £79m in additional business turnover and a £24.1m added contribution to the UK economy.

Commenting on the data, Derek McManus, COO at O2, said: “Alongside our own continued investment in 4G, we’re delighted to be progressing with the first phase of the Shared Rural Network initiative and supporting rural Britain.

“The last year proved that reliable mobile connectivity has been essential for keeping us all connected to our loved ones and keeping businesses across the UK up and running – and 2021 is set to be no different.

“Our latest research shows that mobile has the power to make a real, positive difference to people in rural communities and demonstrates the difference we can make when operators, the Government and Ofcom work together to achieve a shared objective.”

Other sectors set to benefit from the increase in turnover are transport and communications, with 17% of the predicted revenue increase, and professional, financial, property and business services, which will enjoy a 10% boost.

Jemma Clifford, Director and Co-Founder of the Rural Business Group, the Award’s organisers, commented: “We come into contact with hundreds of rural businesses each year through the Rural Business Awards and have heard first-hand how connectivity can make a huge difference to rural businesses right across the country.

“We welcome the work of the Shared Rural Network and O2’s own investment in its 4G network in continuing to reach rural areas yet to see this benefit and allowing these rural businesses to flourish.”

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Scotland has already seen a marked improvement in the network access to rural areas over the last few years, which is set to increase further with this new roll-out.

In March 2018, the Scottish Government announced funding for its Infill Programme and the construction of mobile telephone masts across rural areas that lacked 4G mobile coverage.

On top of this, BT Openreach said in January last year (2020) that it was expanding its build programme to include 250,000 homes and businesses in more than 200 rural locations in Scotland.

The company said it aimed to provide four million homes and businesses with access to full-fibre technology by the end of March 2021.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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