Rural businesses across Britain are set to receive an overall economic boost of approximately £141m per annum from 4G connectivity, according to new economic research commissioned by O2 and conducted by Development Economics. The mobile network operator is today committing to improve 4G connectivity for a further 339 rural communities, from Drumoak to Lizard, by the end of 2018.
The report, entitled ‘The Benefits of Connecting Rural Communities’, predicts that improved 4G connectivity will benefit over 14,000 rural businesses, boosting their collective revenue by as much as £141m per annum. A year on, the revenue boost to rural businesses could also inject an additional £44.6m in additional GVA.
Tourism, transport and manufacturing to benefit most
The tourism and hospitality sector is set to benefit the most from O2’s rural network rollout. According to the report, O2’s rollout is expected to create an additional £57.7m in additional revenue a year after completion, as rural businesses take advantage of new opportunities and efficiencies mobile connectivity offers to attract customers and save time and money.
Rural manufacturers and transport businesses are also predicted to gain from enhanced 4G connectivity, with an estimated additional £24.1m and £15.4m in revenue respectively.
Derek McManus, COO at Telefonica UK, commented: “We know mobile has the power to make a real, positive difference to people’s lives and businesses in rural communities across Britain. That’s why we’re proud to be investing in 4G connectivity for more than 330 rural areas by the end of this year.
“Technology never stands still, which is why we are always looking for the right partners and investing in our future network. Whether trialling 5G to support a future-proof, mobile Britain, or ensuring the remotest parts of rural Britain can connect to 4G, for O2, this is about continuing to invest in all areas – not one at the cost of the other.”
Margot James, Digital Minister, said: “4G coverage is improving all the time, but there’s more to do, particularly in rural areas. We’ve already reformed planning laws to make it easier and cheaper to install and upgrade digital infrastructure, and it’s great to see O2 and the rest of industry responding to ensure more people in rural Britain can share the brilliant benefits of 4G connectivity.”
The rural rollout is part of O2’s commitment to delivering the best mobile experience for its customers. The operator invests over £2 million per day to maintain and improve its network. Earlier this year, Ofcom confirmed that O2 had delivered against its commitment to providing 98% indoor 4G coverage and 90% geographical landmass mass coverage across the UK. This enhanced and expanded coverage helped O2 to scoop uSwitch’s 2018 award for Best Network Coverage, as voted by the public
Last year, O2 installed the first permanent 4G mobile mast in remote hamlet, Staylittle, in Powys, Wales, bringing mobile connectivity to a rural community that had previously been cut off from all communications.
Residents said the transformative impact of improved mobile coverage for rural communities cannot be understated. Anne Griffith, a farmer in Staylittle, said, “4G mobile connectivity has improved the way my business operates and it’s really helped us grow, as we can now speak to potential customers even when we’re out on the fields.” Meanwhile, Gary Mitchell, Chairman of the South and Mid Wales rescue team, credited improved connectivity as a critical tool for saving lives. “4G mobile connectivity has allowed us to respond faster to calls and locate people more quickly.”
For further information and to hear what Staylittle’s residents have to say, visit o2.co.uk/news.
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Notes to editors
About the economic research methodology
The research study and associated socio-economic modelling was conducted by independent research consultancy Development Economics.
The research drew on existing economic data inputs and existing O2 information related to current connectivity levels in each of the 339 communities that are expected to receive enhanced 4G coverage by the end of 2018.
As part of the modelling process, communities were grouped according to their geographical designation and rural geography type. Information about the current structure of employment in rural communities in each of the area types was obtained from the ONS.
The research revealed that improved mobile connectivity would deliver a total net increase in business turnover of about £141m across the 339 communities in a full year. This increase in revenue would also be associated with an estimated overall increase in Gross Value Added of just under £45 million per annum in a full year.
 The extra stimulus provided by 4G is equivalent to a 31% boost over and above the underlying job growth trend for the rural communities.
 Community is defined, for the purpose of this report, as an area with a resident population of 100 or more
 Revenue is the income that a business has from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers. Revenue is also referred to as sales or turnover.
 GVA (Gross Value Added) is a measure of the increase in the value of an economy due to the production of goods and services. It is measured at current basic prices, which include the effect of inflation, excluding taxes on products (for example, Value Added Tax).