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4G Upgrades Provide Mixed Economic Benefits in Rural Areas

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A recent report commissioned by EE suggests that 4G mobile connectivity can generate significant economic benefits for rural communities, with potential earnings exceeding £6 million. However, in half of the analyzed locations, the cost of upgrading outweighed the financial advantages.

The study, conducted by consultancy firm FarrPoint, examined the economic and social impacts of enhanced mobile connectivity in rural regions. Data was collected from four EE sites participating in the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme, a government initiative aimed at accelerating connectivity in remote UK areas. These sites represented diverse rural communities in terms of size and demographics.

The report evaluated the construction impact, the Gross Value Added (GVA) impact, and the social wellbeing impact. It found notable benefits across all four sites, although the extent of these benefits varied based on local characteristics. The economic gains ranged from £249,000 to £6.9 million over 15 years.

Investment in individual mast sites revealed a mixed outcome. In two locations, the benefits significantly exceeded the costs, while in the other two, the benefits were less than the investment.

Specifically, in Melton Mowbray (North), England, the benefits ranged from £5 to £6.9 million, significantly surpassing the investment by up to 12.5 times. In Mallaig, Scotland, the benefits were between £0.7 million and £1 million, about 1.9 times the investment. Conversely, in Dunseverick, Northern Ireland, and Trawsfynydd, Wales, the socio-economic benefits were lower than the investment costs.

EE highlighted that despite the higher costs in smaller rural areas, these sites are a minor part of EE’s overall network, which generates substantial economic returns and benefits for connected communities. Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer at BT Group, emphasized the positive impacts of modern mobile connectivity on local businesses, employment, and digital inclusion, reinforcing EE’s commitment to bridging the digital divide across the UK.

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