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by Jenni Davidson
30 June 2021
Rural Scotland to get boost in 4G connectivity through £1bn UK Government programme

Mobile phone mast near Loch Broom - Image credit: Alamy

Rural Scotland to get boost in 4G connectivity through £1bn UK Government programme

Rural Scotland is expected to get a significant boost in 4G coverage through a £1bn UK Government programme to increase the areas covered by all four mobile operators.

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) will see EE, O2, Three and Vodafone build and upgrade phone masts to end partial not-spots: areas where only some mobile network operators provide 4G coverage.

These not-spots mean people cannot connect to 4G unless they are signed up with a provider who has coverage in that area.

The deal will see 4G coverage from at least one operator reach more than 91 per cent of every electoral region in Scotland, while coverage from all four operators will be delivered to 74 per cent of Scotland – up from 42 per cent currently.

Regions with higher proportions of rural areas will benefit the most from the programme.

The Highlands and islands will see the largest increase in coverage, with a 42 per cent rise in areas with coverage from all four operators – the largest increase in the UK and bringing coverage from all four mobile network operators to 68 per cent.

Coverage from all four operators will increase by 26 per cent in the south of Scotland, 23 per cent in the west of Scotland and 20 per cent in the North East.

The SRN, which was set up by ministers in March last year, will bring an additional 280,000 premises and an additional 16,000km of UK roads within range of a 4G signal, increasing total geographic 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025.

The SRN programme has also begun 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 that will be shared between all four mobile network operators.

A consultation has been launched to identify any existing infrastructure which can be utilised to end total not spots, reducing the need to build new phone masts.

The focus of the consultation is in Scotland, where the majority of coverage improvements will take place.

In a further boost to connectivity in Scotland, the Scottish Government has also confirmed it can continue to provide up to £5,000 extra funding to top-up the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, in addition to the £1,500 available to rural homes and £3,500 available to small to medium-sized rural businesses.

UK Government minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “From Dumfries and Galloway to the Highlands, and from Skye to Shetland, this UK Government investment will improve access to fast, reliable 4G coverage for people in every corner of Scotland.

“The UK Government is working hard to level up digital connectivity, ensuring that people and businesses right across the country can enjoy the social and economic benefits of next-generation broadband and mobile coverage.”

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