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Virgin Media O2 Highlight Next SRN 4G Mobile Upgrades in the Highlands

Thursday, Jun 8th, 2023 (10:27 am) - Score 1,960

O2 (VMO2) has today confirmed that they will either build or upgrade a total of 30 masts in Jamie Stone MP’s constituency – Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – over the “next few months“, which forms part of the £1bn industry-led Shared Rural Network (SRN) project to help boost 4G (mobile broadband) coverage.

The SRN – supported by a public investment of £500m from the UK Government and £532m from all four primary operators (EE, O2, Vodafone and Three UK) – aims to help extend geographic 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025 (it will also aid the 5G rollout). The scheme involves both the reciprocal sharing of existing masts in certain areas and the demand-led building and sharing of new masts in others.

NOTE: The SRN states that it will aim to provide guaranteed coverage to an additional 280,000 UK premises, 16,000km of roads and boost ‘in car’ coverage on around 45,000 km of road, as well as better indoor coverage for around 1.2 million premises.

At present, just 26% of the Highlands and Islands region benefits from 4G coverage via all four mobile network operators, but this will more than double to 68% after all SRN upgrades have been delivered. Admittedly that’s still nowhere near the overall target of 95% for the UK (national average), but it will mark a significant improvement for the Highlands.

Across the UK, O2 has already deployed 4G at a total of 50 rural sites under the SRN and the company has already secured planning consent for works at a further 100 sites (including the 30 mentioned above for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross), meaning work can begin in even more communities in the near future.

Paul Kells, VMO2’s Director of Network, Strategy and Engineering, said:

“The industry’s Shared Rural Network initiative is making a real, tangible difference to people’s lives. We’re continuing to play our part in bringing reliable 4G coverage to more rural locations across Britain, and helping to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban communities.

Many rural parts of Scotland are already benefiting from our rollout of new and upgraded masts, and nowhere will benefit more from our investment than in the Highlands and Islands area, where we’ll be delivering 30 upgrades as part of our commitment to the Shared Rural Network programme.”

Sadly, the latest update fails to list all the sites they’ll be upgrading, which would have been useful to know. Scotland’s nearly complete 4G Infill Programme did a much better job of keeping the public informed about such details.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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