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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Vodafone pledges to deploy 5G across rural Northern Ireland

Tractor in field with Vodafone logo

Vodafone has reaffirmed its commitment to providing 5G Standalone (5G SA) to Northern Ireland, as a result of its proposed merger with Three UK.

  • Northern Ireland stands to gain billions in productivity benefits from 5G Standalone (5G SA).

  • This latest generation mobile network could transform rural communities by improving sectors such as healthcare, education, agriculture and business.

  • Proposed merger with Three means Vodafone could also commit to exceeding the UK Government’s Shared Rural Network 4G coverage targets, and extend 5G into rural Northern Ireland communities.

Vodafone’s existing 4G network is a lifeline for many of Northern Ireland’s rural communities, while 5G is already available in a number of locations across the country. The roll out of the latest version of 5G technology (5G SA) however, would mean communities  across Northern Ireland – including those in rural locations – could take advantage of the most up-to-date technology in areas spanning healthcare, education and agriculture.

Coverage forecast improvements in Northern Ireland with Shared Rural Network (SRN)

Coverage forecast improvements in Northern Ireland with Shared Rural Network (SRN)

Vodafone also commits to exceeding the UK Government’s Shared Rural Network minimum target, of bringing 4G to more than 85% of Northern Ireland’s geography, by ensuring at least 98% of Northern Ireland’s landmass has access by 2027.

The merged business (of Vodafone UK and Three UK) would then go further, by upgrading this network to have more than 98% 5G Standalone geographic coverage by 2034, which will also be available to 4G customers. This will ensure rural communities across Northern Ireland are part of the UK’s digital transformation at home, at work and on the move.

Currently, approximately 75% of Northern Ireland’s rural area landmass is a total 5G not-spot. 

However, according to Vodafone UK research, the cumulative benefits of 5G for economic output in Northern Ireland stand at £2.7 billion between 2026 and 2030.  Next-generation 5G SA technology could be even more transformational for rural Northern Ireland, since it uses cutting-edge infrastructure to provide faster, more reliable connectivity compared to 5G Non-standalone.

The proposed merger with Three would offer the necessary scale needed to roll out the technology to rural Northern Ireland locations, where it can be deployed across innovative service solutions, in areas such as:

  • Healthcare: where drones equipped with 5G SA could be used in remote or hard-to-reach areas to provide vital information for first responders and care teams in emergency situations, such as fires or traffic collisions.

  • Agriculture: where farmers would be able to use new innovations like soil sensors to boost productivity, reduce environmental impact and drive growth.

  • Education: offering advances in virtual classroom applications, enabling young people living in rural or remote communities to access specialist teaching.

Andrea Donà, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK, said:

“We know how vital access to connectivity is for everyone, so we want to ensure we do as much as we can to extend our coverage to rural Northern Ireland. Evidently, we need to accelerate the roll out of 5G infrastructure to every corner of the UK, and the proposed merger with Three UK will enable this, ensuring rural Northern Ireland doesn’t get left behind as a result.”

Mobile network operator coverage in Northern Ireland.

Above: Mobile network operator coverage in Northern Ireland.


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