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Vodafone brings 3G to Outer Hebrides community for the first time

Wednesday, October 14th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

A rural community in the Outer Hebrides has become the first in Scotland to get 3G coverage as part of Vodafone’s scheme to tackle mobile ‘not-spots’.

Tarbert on the Isle of Harris is the latest rural not-spot to benefit from the operator’s Rural Open Sure Signal (ROSS) scheme.

The programme uses ‘femtocell’ technology to bring 3G to areas where it isn’t possible for operators to provide coverage through traditional means.

Tarbert has previously suffered from unreliable mobile coverage and slow network speeds, Vodafone said, but its newly-installed ROSS unit is already taking an average of 235 mobile calls and supporting 10,000 data sessions a day.

Angus MacNeil, MP for Na H-Eileanan An Iar, said he had supported the community application for 3G coverage in Tarbert and was looking forward to seeing other communities in the islands benefit from the technology.

“Mobile phone connectivity is important and it is something that we have been working on continuously for years," he said.

“This is an interesting technology that brings signal from the internet and provides hotspots.

“Hopefully we will see more of these in the islands in the main centres and ferry ports both for locals and visitors.”

Angus MacLeod, the village champion for Tarbert, added: “Vodafone providing a five-bar 3G signal in Tarbert is bringing the local population up to speed with the what you expect in 21st century Scotland.

“It also makes the village more attractive to visitors who are the life blood of the local economy.

“In our own hotel trade, connectivity is becoming as important as hot water – and so we welcome Vodafone working together with our local MP to bring this technology to our rural community.”

'Transformation'

ROSS is a national programme to provide reliable mobile access to up to 100 rural communities in mobile not-spot areas.

Launched in July 2014, the programme received applications from communities across the country, Vodafone said.

The company’s teams have now surveyed each of the 100 communities which were added to the programme at the end of last year, including ground assessments by engineers and fixed broadband speed checks.

They have also drawn up plans for viable communities and have postponed the implementation of the service in others until community broadband speeds and availability improve.

Jorge Fernandes, Vodafone UK's chief technology officer, said: “I am delighted that Tarbert has joined our Rural Open Sure Signal programme.

“Mobile connectivity is an essential service for communities and businesses to thrive in today’s digital world and support local economies.

“As part of the Rural Open Sure Signal programme, we are committed to investing in our network to provide access even in remote locations where it is otherwise almost impossible to reach.

“The number of calls and data sessions the unit is supporting every day, on an island where there was marginal coverage previously, shows the significant benefit the technology is making to members of the community.

“I am excited to see the transformation for Tarbert and other communities which have been successful for this pioneering programme.”

As well as using ROSS to plug rural not-spots, Vodafone is spending around £2bn on its network and services across the country over 2014 and 2015.

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