17 April 2024

On Monday 22 April, I will be leading a Public Accounts Committee inquiry on Supporting Mobile Connectivity. We will be questioning senior officials including the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology. I would like to raise the issue of rural ‘not-spots’, geographical areas with no coverage. I have examples already noted from my own experience of being in certain areas in the constituency and having no network. But if you have any examples you would like me to include, email my office at cliftonbrowng@parliament.uk.

The Inquiry

The Government has set a challenging ambition to deliver UK-wide reliable mobile connectivity. Its plans for 5G coverage are reliant on private sector investment, action from multiple departments and bodies, and learning lessons from the past. In March 2020, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) launched a connectivity improvement programme the Shared Rural Network (SRN), which has led to 4G mobile coverage increasing from 91.4% in 2020 to 92.7% in 2023, against a target of 95% by 2025.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the SRN is behind schedule, with three out of the UK’s four network operators admitting they may not be able to deliver the coverage required within current grant funding. It further found that government is not currently monitoring progress effectively, and does not have the information to understand what the programme is costing.

In 2021, the Committee’s report on Improving Broadband warned that digital inequality was compounding the economic inequality exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee concluded that government’s pledge to deliver nationwide gigabit broadband coverage was unachievable, and that the hardest-to-reach premises may struggle with fixed broadband for years to come.

Based on the NAO report, the Committee will take evidence from senior officials from DSIT and its agency, Building Digital UK, on subjects including progress on plans to deliver UK-wide reliable mobile connectivity, and the current picture for the SRN.

The PAC held an inquiry in 2021 on Improving Broadband, details of this inquiry and copies of the final report can be found following the link below



National Audit Office

The Public Accounts Committee uses the reports produced by the National Audit Office, the link below provides more detail on the NAO report and copies of publications.