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Shared Rural Network

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 4:27 pm, 28th October 2019

I thank the right hon. Gentleman—I think—for the response to the statement. The paltry support he got from those on his Benches when he sat down showed that they did not think much of it either. It was a typical grudging response from the Labour party, rather than a recognition that this is a significant step forward for consumers and for our constituents. Just to answer some of the questions he put on behalf of the Labour luddites in this House, let me say that the 95% target for 2025 is achieved by getting to the just over 92% by 2026. This is a clear commitment given by the four mobile network operators, and it is actually much better than achieving it either through the spectrum auction or through any other roaming proposals. It is right that we should see that this is delivered properly and comprehensively across the UK, rather than rushing, although we are clear about the 2025 target.

On interim targets, we are obviously going to wait for industry to say how quickly it is able to do the roll-out, but I was clear in my statement to say that many areas will see this coverage much more quickly.

On the letter from Ofcom, it is obviously a decision for Ofcom as to whether to carry on with the auction coverage. However, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman read Sharon White’s letter, because she is very clear that by following this proposal and sharing infrastructure,

“the four operators can deliver much greater improvements in coverage at less cost than they could do individually”,

and:

“We believe this is an efficient way of improving coverage which should provide a better experience for consumers than other alternatives like rural roaming.”

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether all four were included in the 95%, and that is absolutely the case.

This is a significant moment for improving mobile connectivity, which is absolutely essential to making sure that the UK plays its part in being able to develop, use and innovate the technologies of the future. I would hope that all those who hope for coverage in areas such as the west midlands, which is leading the charge in terms of the 5G test beds, under the brilliant mayoralty of Andy Street, could celebrate rather than offer this grudging response today.