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Community / Faroese Telecom still interested in boosting Shetland’s connectivity

FAROE’s state-owned telecoms company continues to have an interest in branching out into mobile service in Shetland.

Faroese Telecom has previously spoken about the idea of bringing 5G to Shetland and Orkney.

Speaking to Shetland News recently, managing director Páll Højgaard Vesturbú said this is still on the company’s radar.

It comes after the UK Government’s Scotland minister Iain Stewart visited Faroe in May – with telecoms one subject on the table.

Vesturbú said there are “no concrete plans” regarding Faroese Telecom and Shetland – “but there is still an interest”.

“Maybe we could see a beneficial way of doing it – both for us and also for the [existing mobile] operators,” he said.

“I don’t think our angle will be to come in and highly compete with the providers in the UK.

“I think that would not benefit anybody, not us at least. It should be more in co-operation and in agreement of some kind with some of the major operators.

“I think the operators in the UK, generally they want to focus on the larger areas where there’s large competition…to put extensive coverage in small populated areas, there’s really not a business case in it.

“But from our perspective, that’s how it is here in Faroe, so we’re used to building infrastructure with fewer customers.

“So if we could do some build outs in Shetland and Orkney, I think it will be best if we could do it in cooperation with some of the major operators in the UK. We will be interested in doing that in that way.”

The company’s SHEFA subsea fibre optic cable already comes ashore in both Shetland and Orkney, linking Faroe, the Northern Isles and the Scottish mainland, and the company said in the past this could provide the necessary “backhaul”.

But Shetland Telecom’s Marvin Smith previously warned that there would have to be a change in licensing policy with the government if Faroese Telecom were to get a foothold in the UK mobile market.

Much to the envy of places like Shetland, Faroe – which has an estimated population of just over 50,000 – has a near 100 per cent 4G mobile data coverage.

This includes within its many subsea tunnels, which are seen as a blueprint for how Shetland could potentially replace ferries with fixed links.

Vesturbú said the even faster 5G is beginning to be rolled out in Faroe.

He added that talks have taken place with the SaxaVord Spaceport in Unst over potentially supporting its telecommunications.

“We have some contact with the space centre in Unst,” Vesturbú said. “We have had some dialogue, but it has not advanced so much yet.”