EE connects parts of rural Scotland to 4G for the first time

Mast in Strathconon
(Image credit: WHP Telecom)

Residents and businesses in some of the more remote parts of Scotland now have access to 4G connectivity – more than eight years after the first LTE mast was switched on in the UK.

Although 99% of the UK population now has access to 4G, connecting some rural locations has proved a logistical and economic challenge. Several government and industry initiatives have sought to remedy the situation and reduce the number of mobile ‘not spots’ and narrow the digital divide.

This latest project forms part of the Scottish Government’s £25 million Scottish 4G Infill Programme (S4GI) and included the participation of EE and the Home Office, both of whom are also partners on the 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN).

EE ESN rollout

Sites in 3 locations across the Highlands and on Shetland have been switched on and it is expected that 16 more areas across Highlands and Islands, Aberdeenshire, Morayshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders will be covered within the next six months. By the summer of 2023, 35 locations will have been connected, with 40 masts delivered.

“We are currently dealing with a global health emergency, and during this, digital connectivity is crucial in ensuring Scotland’s social and economic recovery,” said Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish connectivity minister. “With the S4GI roll-out providing local residents and businesses with mobile connectivity for the first time, this network will help future-proof the health and livelihoods of local rural communities.”

The sites will also be used by emergency services and mountain rescue teams. EE has upgraded 19,500 sites to 4G across the UK and has built 600 new sites for the ESN. These sites will be accessible to other operators as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) initiative.

“We’re committed to bringing reliable coverage to communities for the first time, and providing the much-needed reassurance that the emergency services and first responders can stay connected in even the most remote areas,” said Richard Harrap, EE’s MD for the ESN.

“These 35 sites delivered by the S4GI programme add to the portfolio of over 600 new sites we have built in rural areas across Great Britain. his portfolio represents a great opportunity for other operators to share our infrastructure and increase coverage availability for everyone.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.