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3 gives free mobile broadband to 11 rural communities

Gringley-on-the-Hill first to benefit

UK mobile network 3 has revealed it will provide 11 rural communities in the UK with free mobile broadband in a bid to help them get online.

Gringley-on-the-Hill in North Nottinghamshire will be the first rural location to benefit from the initiative. Residents will receive 30 mobile broadband dongles and data at no charge for a year. Furthermore, 3 will also provide free public Wi-Fi hotspots in the pub and community centre within the community.

The mobile network joined forces with the Countryside Alliance and Race Online 2012, the government initiative launched last year by UK Digital Champion and founder of lastminute.com Martha Lane Fox in a bid to give the 9.2 million Brits that are currently offline net access before the end of the current parliament, to identify the 11 locations across the UK that are struggling to access fixed-line broadband services.

"We hope to demonstrate that mobile needs to be a crucial part of the strategy to tackle notspots," said Hugh Davies, Three's director of corporate affairs, told the BBC.

The mobile network said similar packages to ten further areas will be rolled-out later this year, although it did not identify the locations.

Three has previously said the lower-frequency 800MHz spectrum, which is being auctioned by Ofcom next year, would be better for bringing broadband access to rural areas as it can cover a larger areas and offers better signal strength in hilly locations.

"We've built the UK's most extensive 3G network using high-frequency spectrum, if we gain access to low-frequency spectrum like 800Mhz we will be able to significantly improve both indoor and outdoor rural coverage for the UK's smartphone and mobile broadband users,” the network said.

The government has pledged to ensure the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, with every resident getting access to broadband speeds of 2Mbps, and with 90 percent of the country benefitting from superfast broadband access, which is defined as 24Mbps or above.

3’s announcement comes just weeks after it was revealed that England and Scotland will receive nearly £363m from a £530m fund to improve broadband in rural areas.

Medway in Kent and Thurrock in Essex along with parts of Dorset, East Sussex and Cumbria are among the areas that have been allocated a share of the funding. In total English counties will receive £294m, while Scotland is to be given £68.8m.

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