A remote island in Scotland has received a boost in mobile connectivity thanks to a helicopter that delivered new 4G masts. The project is part of a £1bn initiative to improve rural coverage across the UK.
How the helicopter helped
Virgin Media O2, one of the four mobile network operators in the UK, used a helicopter to transport six new 4G masts to the island of Islay, which is located off the west coast of Scotland. The island has a population of about 3000 people and is known for its whisky production.
The helicopter was able to access areas that would have been difficult or impossible to reach by road, such as hills and cliffs. The masts were then installed by engineers on the ground, who connected them to the power supply and the network.
Why the island needed better coverage
The island of Islay had been suffering from poor mobile coverage, with many areas having no signal or only one operator available. This made it hard for residents, businesses, and visitors to stay connected and access online services.
The new masts will provide 4G coverage from all four operators – Virgin Media O2, Vodafone, EE, and Three – to more than 90% of the island. This will improve the quality and reliability of voice calls, text messages, and data services.
The improved coverage will also benefit the island’s economy, especially the tourism and whisky sectors, which rely on mobile connectivity to attract customers and promote their products.
What the locals said
The project was welcomed by Jenni Minto, the MSP for Argyll and Bute, and councillor Liz McCabe, policy lead for islands and business development at Argyll and Bute Council, who visited one of the new masts on the island.
They praised Virgin Media O2 for investing in rural networks and helping to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural communities. They also said that the new coverage will have a positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of the islanders and the visitors.
What the company said
Paul Kells, director of network, strategy and engineering at Virgin Media O2, said that the company is committed to playing its part in bringing reliable 4G coverage to rural locations all over Britain. He said that the industry’s Shared Rural Network initiative is making a real and tangible difference to people’s lives.
He also said that Argyll and Bute is one of the areas that will benefit most from the company’s investment, with over 60 sites set to be built in the region that will boost 4G coverage by 25%.
What is the Shared Rural Network
The Shared Rural Network (SRN) is a £1bn programme that aims to improve mobile coverage in rural areas across the UK. It is a joint initiative between the UK government and the four mobile network operators.
The programme will build new masts and share existing infrastructure to eliminate partial not-spots, where only some operators provide coverage, and reduce total not-spots, where no operators provide coverage.
The programme will also increase the geographic coverage of 4G from all four operators from 66% to 95% by the end of 2025.
What’s next for the island
The island of Islay is the first island to receive new masts from Virgin Media O2 as part of the SRN programme. The company has also secured planning consent for works at a further 100 sites, meaning that work can begin in more communities in the near future.
The islanders and visitors can now enjoy faster and more reliable mobile connectivity than ever before, as well as a greater choice of provider. However, the island still faces some challenges, such as the availability of broadband and the impact of climate change.
Will the island be able to cope with these challenges and make the most of its new opportunities? Only time will tell.