Marking the completion of its 4G roll-out under the Scottish Government’s Scottish 4G Infill (S4GI) programme, UK mobile operator EE has installed mobile masts on two of the UK’s most remote inhabited islands, Out Skerries and Foula.
It has been a key year for EE’s 4G expansion, with the operator going live at 22 of the 51 S4GI masts in 2023 alone. S4GI is a £28.75m initiative to deliver 4G infrastructure and services in 55 mobile “notspots” in rural parts of Scotland. The programme is being delivered in partnership with WHP Telecoms, Cellnex UK and the Scottish Futures Trust. It is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund to support activity in the Highlands and Islands.
The latest installations mark a significant milestone for EE, which has now delivered on its commitment to make 4G connectivity available on 51 of the 55 S4GI mobile masts across Scotland – the only operator to have done so.
As the company continues to expand its network coverage through a range of initiatives, its 4G coverage in Scotland currently reaches 99.56% of the population and 76.1% geographically. EE said residents and businesses would benefit from improved 4G mobile coverage, increasing access to online services and better connecting the remote islands’ inhabitants to the rest of the UK.
Out Skerries is an island of roughly 70 inhabitants, some of whom say having mobile internet access has opened up a whole new world. For example, introducing 4G mobile coverage to the isolated area has meant people can do their Christmas shopping online for the first time, preventing the need to make a six-hour round trip to reach Lerwick on mainland Shetland.
Commenting on what the new masts could mean for the islands, Greg McCall, chief networks officer at BT Group, said reliable 4G connectivity had the potential to transform the everyday lives of people in remote communities.
“These new 4G sites provide residents with fast and reliable access to online services like banking, healthcare and shopping, while empowering rural Scottish businesses to take mobile payments and offer new digital experiences. Together with the Scottish Government and our industry partners, we are helping close the UK’s digital divide and deliver the connectivity boost countryside communities can rely on.”
Scottish Government innovation minister Richard Lochhead added: “Thanks to our £28.75m S4GI programme, we’ve brought 4G to these Shetland islands, showing our commitment to providing future-proofed connectivity to rural and island communities. These phone masts mean residents, businesses and visitors in these communities can work, communicate and access services more efficiently. This is about creating opportunities for businesses, improving daily life and ensuring no one – even the hardest to reach – is left behind in the digital era.”