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MP hails rural 4G mobile coverage plan

By Alan Beresford

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PLANS to bring 4G mobile coverage to rural areas of the north-east currently not covered have been welcomed by Moray MP Douglas Ross.

Douglas Ross MP: SRN scheme will make a "big difference" to many north-east communities. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Douglas Ross MP: SRN scheme will make a "big difference" to many north-east communities. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

The £1 billion programme aims to level up digital connectivity across the UK.

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) will see EE, O2, Three and Vodafone build and upgrade phone masts to end so-called partial not-spots: areas where only some, but not all, mobile network operators (MNOs) provide 4G coverage. These not spots mean local people cannot connect unless they are signed up with a provider who has coverage in the area.

It will help those who live and work in rural communities enjoy the benefits of improved connectivity and seize the benefits of technology, such as using a 4G phone signal for work video calls as well as shopping and streaming TV shows online on the go.

Welcoming the news, Mr Ross said: "This is a very welcome announcement from the UK government that will make a big difference if it can be targeted to areas in Moray where coverage is, at best, patchy and often absolutely dismal.

"Better 4G coverage is something I have been campaigning on for some time as I have been contacted by businesses and individuals who rightly expect better service.

"Having raised this topic several times with mobile phone companies in recent months, I'll be delighted to see this shared network come to fruition and the importance the UK government has placed on improved connectivity."

The deal will see 4G coverage from at least one operator reach more than 91 per cent of every electoral region in Scotland.

The Highlands and Islands will see the largest uptick in coverage with a 42 per cent rise in areas with coverage from all four operators – the largest increase seen anywhere in the UK and bringing coverage from all four MNOs to 68 per cent. Coverage from at least one MNO will reach 91 per cent of the region’s landmass.

This year the SRN programme has also kicked off work to end ‘total not spots’ – areas which have no coverage from any operator.

It has begun searching for, acquiring and building publicly funded masts to be shared between all four MNOs.

The government has launched a consultation with the telecoms industry to identify any existing infrastructure which can be utilised to end total not spots. It wants to reduce the need to build new phone masts and help make sure public funds are used effectively.

In a further boost to connectivity in Scotland, the Scottish Government has confirmed it can continue to provide up to £5000 extra funding to top-up the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. This is in addition to the £1500 available to rural homes and £3500 available to rural small to medium-sized businesses.

The UK government continues to actively work with the Scottish Government on gigabit deployment through their Reaching 100 per cent (R100) programme. The scope of the final R100 contract will be confirmed during the summer.

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