Patricia Gibson MP is urging the UK Government to “show more ambition” on rural connectivity, as a new study revealed that Scotland is lagging behind much of the UK on mobile access to a 4G signal.
A report by the consumer champion Which? and independent mobile coverage experts OpenSignal, found that mobile users in Scotland can only access a 4G signal 50.4% of the time. Scotland is ranked 8th out of 12 UK regions and nations for 4G access. This stands in comparison to London, which topped the table, where mobile users are able to access a 4G signal 69.7% of the time.
As the UK Government prepares to progress its Digital Economy Bill through Parliament, Patricia has called for a new approach to leverage far better mobile coverage from providers.
Commenting, Patricia said:
“Rural and island areas have for a long time lost out to urban areas due to poor infrastructure and weak connectivity. This is why the UK Government - to which mobile service provision is reserved - needs to show more ambition when it comes to developing strategies for the future.
“When the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service urged for Arran to be prioritised the UK Government took the view that Arran was ‘not significant’ enough. That is unacceptable.
“Future technology licences should specify that rural communities must be prioritised. We cannot just take into account the mobile connectivity technology that is currently available. The UK Government must plan for the next big development and the technologies that are about to come on stream.”
“As we move towards a 5G future with its enormous economic potential, we have to learn from previous mistakes and from best practice across Europe. Spectrum licensing is absolutely crucial to resolving problems around rural connectivity. As the German example has shown, it’s possible to use licensing policy as an efficient way to get mobile network operators to tackle rural connectivity first. The UK Government should to follow this example and implement a rural and island first policy for future licenses.
“The SNP Government has taken a lead in developing broadband connectivity and Westminster should follow their example and work with providers to help improve mobile coverage. With nearly half of Scotland’s landmass without any mobile data coverage whatsoever, we also need to consider far more ambitious targets for geographic coverage. These are the kind of bold initiatives required to ensure that no one in Scotland is excluded from the digital superhighways of the future.”