Vodafone study reveals digital divide persists

A new study from Vodafone has revealed the scale of the 5G digital divide between rural and urban areas.

The Connecting the Countryside report was commissioned by Vodafone UK, with analysis carried out by WPI Economics, found nearly half (46 per cent) of rural deprived areas are classed as 5G not spots. The same can only be said for 2.7 per cent of urban, deprived communities.

The study identified five areas of Britain as performing particularly poorly when it comes to a lack of connectivity and high levels of deprivation – Scotland, Wales, East Anglia, Cumbria and the South-West. Over half (53.8 per cent) of the rural constituencies in Wales are total 5G not spots.

In total, the report found 838,000 people living in deprived rural areas are losing out on the benefits that 5G could provide.

Andrea Dona, chief network officer, Vodafone UK, said, “We believe everyone should have access to connectivity and our research shows the alarming rate at which almost a million people living in deprived rural communities are being left behind.”

Dona explained that Vodafone’s proposed merger with Three UK could help “accelerate the roll-out of the UK’s 5G infrastructure”. He added that, should the merger be approved, the combined company “would close the rural digital divide by delivering 95 per cent 5G Standalone geographic coverage by 2034”.

Simon Fell, Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness and rural connectivity champion, added, “New research published today lays bare the challenge we face to bring connectivity to our most deprived rural communities to match the rest of the country, and to ensure that millions of people are not left out from the future innovations that 5G can provide.

“We need to deliver nationwide coverage of standalone 5G to all populated areas by 2030, ensuring that we can bring its full benefits to villages and rural communities well beyond cities and towns, as set out in the Government’s Wireless Infrastructure Strategy.”