Vodafone UK flicked the switch on its 200th mast in the country’s Shared Rural Network (SRN) project, a move announced days after rival Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) inked a deal with Starlink to bolster its own efforts for the scheme.

The two companies, alongside 3 UK, were slammed earlier this year by Howard Watson, chief security and networks officer of rival BT Group, for deemed slow progress being made and apparent requests for extra support to meet targets.

In Vodafone’s announcement, it revealed its landmark 200th 4G SRN site had been activated in Combe, an area less than 11 miles from the operator’s office in Newbury.

“The SRN programme remains an extremely important strand of our wider rural network campaign”, Vodafone UK network director Andrea Dona said. “For our 4G to reach 200 masts is great news for our customers in those rural and remote areas of the UK. However, we continue to work hard on this programme to ensure our customers have the coverage they need, whatever their postcode.” 

Looking to the stars
Earlier this week, VMO2 revealed it was working with Starlink to use its satellites to provide mobile backhaul to aid rural coverage as part of its work on the SRN.

In its statement, the operator noted it was “going to extreme lengths to deliver on its commitments”, pointing to the delivery of its 100th SRN site to the island of Skye using a helicopter in February.

CTO Jeanie York said VMO2 was “leaving no stone unturned when it comes to improving rural connectivity”, adding “our commitment to delivering on our part of the SRN programme has seen us turn first to helicopters and now to satellites to connect some of the most difficult and remote parts of the country”.

In January, BT Group’s EE announced it had completed its first stage SRN target six months ahead of schedule, with more than 1,600 communities connected.

As of the last public update on the issue, made in August 2023, 3 UK had constructed 100 sites.