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by Sofia Villegas
08 November 2023
5G ‘existential’ for rural Scotland as politicians call on UK Government for speedy roll out

A prosed merge between Vodafone and Three plans to bridge the connectivity divide | Alamy

5G ‘existential’ for rural Scotland as politicians call on UK Government for speedy roll out

Scottish parliamentarians have called on the UK Government for a fast 5G rollout after a study showed almost one-third of constituencies north of the border are both rural and amongst the most deprived areas nationwide.

Research published by telecom company Vodafone outlined the several benefits the deployment would bring. 

The study carried out by WPI Economics and titled ‘Connecting the Countryside’ also found that Na h-eileanan An lar, Orkney and Shetland had no 5G connectivity at all.

Overall, on a UK level, the research found almost half of all UK constituencies that are both rural and among the top nationally deprived areas were 5G “not-spots”.

Among the benefits listed were better access to remote GP consultations, and online learning as well as the provision of infrastructure to support local businesses like farmers who could be able to monitor their crops remotely through sensors in the soil.

Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland, said: “Connectivity matters to everyone in this country but in the Highlands and Islands it is close to existential. We need to ensure that these areas have the same access to digital connections – including 5G infrastructure – that other parts of the country benefit from.”

Along with the research, Vodafone UK and Three have proposed to join efforts to bridge the divide by "delivering 95 per cent 5G Standalone geographic coverage by 2034,” according to Vodafone UK’s chief network officer Andrea Dona.

 As telecoms is a reserved matter to Westminster, the Scottish Government has limited powers, meaning it is “crucial” for the UK Government to consider the research before the gap widens “even further”, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan said. 

However, Allan added the priority should be to deliver “full and reliable 4G connectivity”, which the telecoms company deal expects to almost deploy fully– more than 95 per cent - within the next four years.

SNP MP Ian Blackford added that "progress in reducing deprivation levels in rural areas" will only happen if infrastructure is futureproofed.

Other parliamentarians supporting the partnership are Independent MP Angus Brendan MacNeil, Labour shadow rural affairs secretary Rhoda Grant and Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone.

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