The government's plans to significantly improve mobile coverage across the UK moved a step closer today, with the news that communication infrastructure provider Arqiva has been appointed to deliver the £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP).
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has also confirmed that all four mobile network operators (O2, Vodafone, EE and Three) will provide their services from the MIP infrastructure, maximising the benefits to consumers.
MIP aims to deliver mobile services in rural areas where market-driven, private investment doesn't make sense for mobile operators, by building additional mobile phone masts and ensuring technical solutions are compatible with future technological developments.
It sits alongside other government initiatives such as the £530 million Rural Broadband project and the £150 million 'super-connected cities' programme as a means of creating local jobs and contribute to economic growth.
Arqiva will be responsible for a full-scale mobile network roll out including network planning, site acquisition and the deployment of site infrastructure and installation of equipment.
"Arqiva's appointment today is great news for rural communities throughout the UK, who stand to benefit enormously from this £150 million project to improve mobile phone coverage," said Culture Minister Ed Vaizey.
"Good mobile connectivity is becomingly increasingly important and it is crucial that businesses and individuals are not left struggling with poor and intermittent coverage."
Arqiva's appointment follows a rigorous and competitive procurement process and will see the project now move into implementation phase, according to DCMS.
Up to 60,000 premises and sections of road will be covered using the £150 million funding allocated to the project. It is expected that an announcement will be made on which locations will benefit from improved mobile coverage in the summer.
"By investing in mobile infrastructure, the government can help bridge the social and technological divides created in areas where commercial service is not economical, and we're proud to be part of this process," said Nicolas Ott, Managing Director of Government, Mobile and Enterprise of Arqiva.
An investigation by the Financial Times last year found that Arqiva had paid no UK corporation tax in the previous four years, despite making sales of around £1 billion a year.
It does this in part by borrowing money from its shareholders and agreeing to pay them back at a 13 percent rate of interest. Those loans can then be used to offset tax, according to the newspaper.