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Scottish island gets mobile coverage for first time thanks to 4G mast

Thursday, March 26th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

A Scottish island has mobile phone coverage for the first time, thanks to a new state-of-the-art mast.

The mast, funded by the Scottish Government, also means that the inner Hebridean Isle of Coll has become the first island off Scotland to have access to 4G.

The rollout, carried out in partnership with Vodafone and community organisations, is hoped to boost business opportunities for people on the island.

It has been hailed by the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure Keith Brown as “a massive breakthrough” which could “help transform the local economy”.

He said: “The Isle of Coll project is a great example of what can be achieved when a community has the ambition and the commitment to making such a development work.

“A state-of-the-art telecoms mast – funded by the Scottish Government as part of our Demonstrating Digital programme, which supports our digital world class 2020 vision – allows communities and businesses on Coll to access mobile services for the first time."

Mr Brown said it was very encouraging to see a local community and a service provider working with the government to develop an innovative solution for an area that would otherwise miss out on mobile coverage.

He added: “This community ownership model provides a template that has the potential to be adopted in other remote areas across the country, improving connectivity to Scotland’s islands and rural towns and villages.”

The project is the result of a collaboration between the Scottish Government, Scottish Futures Trust, Vodafone, Mono Consultants, Wireless Infrastructure Group and the local community.

Mobile not-spots

It is the first of several pilots that the Scottish Government and Scottish Futures Trust will use to assess the potential for a similar approach to address mobile not-spots in other remote communities.

Vodafone UK chief technology officer Jorge Fernandes said: “Our partnership with the Scottish Government and the local community is the ideal business model to be able to deliver ultra-fast 4G mobile communications to remote locations, such as the Isle of Coll.

“Thanks to the enormous effort of our engineers, we can now give islanders high-speed mobile data access to services that will enable greater economic development and improved social inclusion.

“This initiative is real evidence of what we can achieve together, when the required fixed connection is in place to link our 4G network in remote places to the national fixed line infrastructure.”

The mobile mast will be owned by Development Coll – a local community trust established to generate income through local enterprise – which will also be responsible for its maintenance.

Chairwoman Lavinia MacLean-Bristol said: “The ability to communicate has a real impact on families and businesses within small, remote communities such as ours and this project will help to make a big difference.”

Derek Graham, programme director with the Demonstrating Digital team at Scottish Futures Trust, added: "This is a great example of what can be achieved in a collaborative environment, allowing locals and visitors to the Island of Coll access to mobile and data services for the very first time.”

He said they looked forward to seeing the benefits that the introduction of mobile technology would have on visitors and residents on Coll.

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