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CONNECTIVITY Turning not spots into hot spots


A partnership between government and telecoms companies is transforming connectivity in rural areas


BY FIONA LAING


There are few things more frustrating than a ‘not spot’ – a place where your mobile is left out in the cold with no connec- tion. Te lack of hot spots in rural Scotland has long been a focus of government and phone operators and the solution is in the making. Already not spots in the High-


lands and Shetland have become hot spots thanks to a partnership between EE, the Scottish Gov- ernment, the Home Office, the Scottish Futures Trust and WHP Telecoms. In total, 32 sites are part of the


Scottish Government’s £25m Scottish 4G Infill programme (S4GI) which is delivering infrastructure and services to provide 4G connectivity to rural areas which previously had no coverage. By the summer of 2023 it is anticipated that the S4GI programme will deliver up to 40 masts, including the Emergency Services Network (ESN) roll-out. Scotland’s connectivity minis-


ter, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “It’s great that local communities and Scotland’s emergency services will benefit from improved mobile coverage, and my thanks go to our partners including EE for their work in making this happen. “Te Scottish Government’s


£25m S4GI programme in extend- ing the 4G coverage to 40 not spots across Scotland is also enabling the Emergency Services Network to reach more rural places than ever before, ensuring more people keep connected and remain safe. “We are currently dealing with


a global health emergency, and during this, digital connectivity is crucial in ensuring Scotland’s social and economic recovery. “With the S4GI roll-out provid-


ing local residents and businesses with mobile connectivity for the


first time, this network will help future-proof the health and liveli- hoods of local rural communities.” EE’s network has been named


the UK’s best network for seven years and the mobile phone operator is committed to taking reliable coverage to communities for the first time. Richard Harrap, managing


director of ESN at EE, said: “We’re committed to providing the much-needed reassurance that the emergency services and first responders can stay connected in even the most remote areas. We are already well ahead of other operators in delivering rural 4G coverage, and these new sites will further expand accessibility. “Tese 35 sites delivered by


the S4GI programme add to the portfolio of over 600 new sites we have built in rural areas across Britain. Tis portfolio represents a great opportunity for other opera- tors to share our infrastructure and increase coverage availability for everyone.” Martyn Cheyne, WHP’s


strategic development direc- tor, added: “WHP Telecoms is


The new mast at Strathconon means residents can now connect to faster reliable speeds


committed to facilitating reliable coverage to these communities by providing infrastructure that is robust and future proofed. “EE has been a fantastic sponsor


of the S4GI programme since the outset and these sites will further expand their 4G accessibility. We, at WHP, also welcome other operators to share these sites to reduce the amount of infrastruc- ture in the landscape, increasing coverage and choice for everyone.” EE has recently completed its


600th new site for the ESN, and upgraded more than 19,500 sites to 4G. It continues to invest in pro- viding dedicated 4G voice and data coverage for more than 300,000 emergency service users across Scotland, England and Wales. EE continues to dominate in


UK-wide overall mobile network testing, winning six of RootMet- rics’ awards outright – overall performance, reliability, acces- sibility, speed, data, and call – and taking joint first for text. l


‘I can take part in online meetings without time lags’


For the 69 homes and businesses in Strathconon, the 4G switch-on has transformed life in this part of central Ross-shire, west of Inverness. Not only is there vital mobile connectivity to ambulance, police, fire and mountain rescue emergency services, but resi- dents and visitors also benefit. For resident John Turner, who


also lets a holiday cottage in Strathconon, 4G has transformed


66 | FUTURESCOT | WINTER 2020/21


his home and working life. “Improved mobile connectiv-


ity has made such a difference to myself, my wife and the local community,” he said. “Thanks to the S4GI programme we can now connect to faster reliable speeds, which is crucial during the current pandemic. “Like many people living in


Strathconon and the surround- ing area, I work from home and now I’m able to take part in


online meetings without experi- encing time lags and colleagues talking over each other due to the poor connection. “Strathconon is a beautiful spot to live in, however staying in a remote area of Scotland can be especially challenging in the winter. Improved mobile coverage will be really useful in emergencies, when travelling or for tourists visiting the local area.”


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