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Community / MP pleased to see ‘steady progress’ on rural mobile coverage project

Despite recent improvements to the 4G network there are still many areas in Shetland where there is no service. Photo: Shetland News

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the progress made by a UK Government project designed to boost 4G mobile coverage in rural areas.

But he said there is “no room for complacency” when it comes to meeting deadlines.

The £1 billion Shared Rural Network scheme will see EE, O2, Three and Vodafone build and upgrade masts to end partial ‘not-spots’ where only some operators provide 4G.

New figures show that in the Highlands and Islands coverage from all mobile network operators is set to rise from 26 per cent to 68 per cent through the project.

Coverage from at least one is due to rise from 73 per cent to 91 per cent.

A consultation is now open with the telecoms industry to identify any existing infrastructure which can be utilised to end total not-spots.

Carmichael said: “That the Shared Rural Network continues to make steady progress despite the pandemic is good to see.

“With four years left until the government’s self-imposed deadline for these improvements to be complete there is no room for complacency – particularly as connectivity has only become more important for our work and personal lives in the last year. We cannot go back to the old normal so we must press on with making our digital connections better.

“Further consultations announced this week should not be an excuse for inaction but they can be a chance for the reality of need and opportunity in the isles to be more clearly heard.

“I would advise anyone with an interest in the further expansion of network coverage here to make their submissions as soon as possible.”

Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands Jamie Halcro Johnston meanwhile said increasing 4G could “make the world of difference to many local people and businesses”.

“Good communications connectivity for our communities is so important in supporting the jobs that allow people to live and work in rural Scotland,” he said.

“But this is only the start of the improvements we need to see. We also need SNP ministers to deliver on their much promised but much delayed R100 broadband rollout.

“Access to fast, reliable broadband is vital, but we’ve been let down too many times by Scottish Government rhetoric which is vastly differently from reality.”