MacNeil-for better isles mobile phone reception Scotland needs the power of the Faroe Islands and the Isle of Man

May 2011

MacNeil-for better isles mobile phone reception Scotland needs the power of the Faroe Islands and the Isle of Man

‘First step to better coverage in the Hebrides’

On Friday 20 May in Lewis, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil held a meeting with mobile phone companies and other agencies, to discuss the need to improve the mobile phone coverage in the Western Isles.

Speaking after the meeting Angus MacNeil said:

“For years we in the Hebrides have experienced poor mobile phone communications service.  From my conversations I blame the flawed Ofcom model which is based on competition between companies rather than looking to adequately provide the country with good mobile phone coverage.  The UK competition model is designed for London and the big cities. Time has proven that it does not work for us in the Islands and Highlands.

“Faroese Telecom particularly exposed the flaws in the UK model, with their 50 3G masts and blanket 2G coverage for entire population of the Faroe Islands (48,000).  The Faroes also have the ability to gain mobile signals in undersea tunnels and at distances of 200 km from the coast of Faroes.

“Things will not get better in the Islands, Highlands and, other areas of rural Scotland until we can control the yardstick Ofcom uses.   It is for that reason that I will approach the Scottish Government to seek to have their Scottish regulatory powers devolved and a more sympathetic regime set up for rural Scotland.  After all if the Faroe Islands and the Isle of Man governments can govern their mobile infrastructure then surely so can the Scottish Government and then improve service by having a different yardstick of expectation of the mobile phone companies.

“Over and above the structure of mobile phone governance I would like to thank all of the participants for taking the time out to attend the summit. It may have been the first time that providers of mobile phone communications have met with representatives of the Hebrides to seek better coverage for the islands.

“The mobile phone companies have gone away with the intention of looking to look at the possibility coverage on both Orange and Vodafone/O2 networks on the entire length of the Hebridean Spinal Route rather than the current spotty coverage from each. They are also investigating sharing masts and perhaps using Connected Communities masts to help fill the gaps if they can.

“I’m very disappointed that, while invited, BT and Ofcom decided not to attend this summit.   Serious issues regarding backhaul, network resiliency and, pricing regimes can only be addressed by them. I will be seeking other ways to talk with them. Countries from Germany to Rwanda have been able to provide their people with proper mobile coverage why can’t Ofcom produce this in UK?

“I found that in the UK we are told we can’t do it. In the Faroes I have said, they have shown that they can.

“Ultimately we have to prepare the islands for 4G, coverage.  The Ofcom consultation for that closes within a month.  It was the consensus of the group that full 3G coverage for the islands is not going to happen before the roll out of new 4G spectrum licenses next year.  Given the radio frequency that 4G will work on it should have a greater range than 3G that should be better for rural areas.  We have to clearly focus on the future whilst getting current coverage up to acceptable standards in the meantime

“Ofcom’s model has resulted on getting coverage to the big cities but, but in the last 5 years they have done nothing tangible for rural areas – if they were to enable local  roaming agreements it would be a major step forward,  but up to now they have lived in a “can’t do” or “won’t do” world.

“It’s high time they finally start thinking about full proper coverage.   I am not alone in my criticism; a recent debate in the House of Commons showed that MPs from rural areas of England have had similar problems with UK Ofcom approach.

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