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EE UK Gives Boost to Scotland’s Rural 4G Mobile Infill Project

Thursday, December 10th, 2020 (10:15 am) - Score 2,256
ee mobile mast tower in scotland

Mobile operator EE has today announced that they’ve partnered with the Scottish Government (SG) to help deliver their £25m 4G Infill Programme, which aims to improve rural mobile voice and broadband coverage (mostly notspots across the Highlands and Islands) by building new masts for UK mobile operators to use.

After a fair delay the programme finally began to put their first masts live earlier this year with Vodafone (here) and it was said that EE would then follow later in the year. At the time the SG said that “the biggest challenge is trying to attract interest from mobile operators to actually utilise the masts” (i.e. the cost of building the mast is only part of the challenge), but the good news is that they now seem to be overcoming some of that issue.

NOTE: The funding includes £10m from the EU (ERDF) and £15m via the SG.

The solution appears to stem from a new partnership between EE, the SG, the UK Home Office, the Scottish Futures Trust and WHP Telecoms Ltd. (WHP are contracted to build the masts) to bring “reliable 4G to rural locations in Scotland for the first time.” As a result, EE sites are now live in Highland areas of Strathconon, Blairmore and Reawick (Shetland Islands), with a further 32 to follow, one of which is scheduled to go live within the fortnight.

Delivered by the S4GI programme and connected as part of EE’s Emergency Service Network (ESN) partnership with the Home Office, the new sites should provide vital connectivity in some of Scotland’s most rural areas. Scottish Emergency Services and Mountain Rescue will also be able to access a 4G mobile service for the first time, as well as residents, visitors and businesses.

The next location to go live will be Little Mill (Highland), while more sites across the Highlands and Islands, Aberdeenshire, Morayshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders are set to be connected in the next 6 months.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Connectivity Minister, 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. The Scottish Government’s £25 million S4GI programme in extending the 4G coverage to 40 not spots across Scotland from the Highlands and Islands to Ettrick in the Scottish Borders, also is 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 providing local residents and businesses with mobile connectivity for the first time, this network will help future-proof the health and livelihoods of local rural communities.”

Richard Harrap, MD of ESN at EE, said:

“We’re committed to bringing reliable coverage to communities for the first time, and 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.

These 35 sites delivered by the S4GI programme add to the portfolio of over 600 new sites we have built in rural areas across Great Britain. his portfolio represents a great opportunity for other operators to share our infrastructure and increase coverage availability for everyone.”

By the summer of 2023, the Scottish Government’s S4GI programme is anticipated to deliver up to 40 masts, including the ESN roll-out. In Strathconon, 69 homes and businesses are now receiving mobile coverage from this network. You can see a map of current progress below (this is from September 2020 and, as above, more progress has since been made).

All of this should also help to complement the new £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN), which aims to extend UK geographic 4G mobile coverage to 95% by the end of 2025. Not to mention the 10Mbps+ Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, which often falls back to a 4G fix.

scotland 4g infill map 2020

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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