UK mobile operator EE set a goal to bring 4G coverage to more than 1,500 rural areas across the country by mid-2024, as parent company BT Group’s CEO Philip Jansen invited other players to seal sharing deals to fill gaps in their own networks.

EE pledged to extend 4G to 925 sites in England; 359 in Scotland; 125 in Northern Ireland; and 123 in Wales, all of which will be available for sharing with other operators as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) initiative.

The move would bring its tally to 2,385 sites by June 2024, including the 853 areas it claimed to have already upgraded since the SRN was agreed by all four major UK operators in March 2020.

Jansen explained the investment showed BT had the infrastructure “in place to extend our 4G coverage footprint even further, minimising the number of new sites we need to build to ensure everyone has access to reliable connectivity”.

He maintained EE was the only provider of 4G in “many places” across the UK and called for other operators to “recognise the opportunity sharing our sites offers to fill gaps in their networks”.

Julia Lopez, Minister of media, data and digital infrastructure, claimed EE’s plans showed “good progress” and predicted benefits around consumer choice and productivity for rural areas.

As part of the SRN deal, EE, O2 UK, 3 UK and Vodafone UK pledged to invest £530 million into bringing 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2025, with the government committing up to £500 million.