NETWORK operator EE is extending its 4G covering in 15 places in North Yorkshire this year, including the Yorkshire Dales National Park and North Craven, to boost rural connectivity.

A total of 579 locations across the UK will be upgraded this year as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme to address areas with high summer demand.

SRN is a programme between the UK’s four mobile network operators and the UK Government to extend 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK’s geography by the middle of this decade. The upgrades announced today fall under the first phase of the Shared Rural Network, where EE will invest to significantly reduce ‘partial not-spots’ by 2024.

Mike McKinley, chair of National Parks England, said: “The extension, and introduction, of 4G coverage across more rural areas is welcome news for National Park communities and visitors, and will help meet increased demand for fast, reliable connectivity.

“Digital connectivity is a vital part of modern life, and this news will also benefit the residents of national parks, many of whom currently live in isolated areas with no access to mobile coverage..

“As we look ahead to this summer 2021, visitors will now have access to better and more reliable mobile coverage, giving them the opportunity to use important tools such as ‘SaferLakes’ which helps visitors enjoy these special landscapes, while ensuring they are protected for future generations.”

Locations to be upgraded in North Yorkshire in 2021 include:A59, Broughton, Lawkland, Rylstone, and Draughton, in the Craven area.

Elsewhere across the county the locations are: Ainderby Steeple, Hambleton, Kirkby Malzeard, Melmerby, Roecliffe, Henderskelfe, Kirby Misperton, Pickering (three sites), Goathland and Sawdon, near Scarborough.

EE says coverage in national parks has increased by more than 200KM², the equivalent of over 40,000 football fields.

EE’s 4G network now covers 94 per cent of roads in Great Britain.

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said: “I’m delighted to see the great strides EE is making to boost 4G services in countryside communities as part of the Shared Rural Network agreement, which was brokered and is part funded by the government.

“We’re investing half a billion pounds in this landmark deal to extend mobile coverage to 95 per cent of the UK and it will help us build back better from the pandemic.”

Philip Jansen, Chief Executive of BT Group, said: “Reliable connectivity is important wherever you live, work or travel, and we’re committed to improving and adding coverage to even the most remote areas. The investment BT has made in rural areas to date means we already have the infrastructure in place needed to extend our 4G coverage footprint further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build. There are many places where EE is the only provider with 4G coverage today, offering the other operators an opportunity to share our existing sites to plug gaps in their networks and improve mobile performance for everyone.”