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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-18256: Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 17 August 2018

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of reports in the Press and Journal on 16 August 2018 that 4G coverage is poor for many households in the Highlands and Islands, when it expects to reach 100% coverage of 4G (a) indoors and (b) outdoors across the whole of Scotland.

Answered by: Paul Wheelhouse 20 September 2018

Telecoms is a reserved issue and Ofcom and the UK Government are responsible for setting national mobile coverage targets and the coverage obligations imposed on mobile network operators. No 100% coverage targets have been set by the UK Government or regulator for either (a) indoor or (b) outdoor coverage. However, Ofcom earlier this year reported that each mobile network operator’s 2017 geographic coverage to reach 90% UK landmass for voice coverage and O2’s 4G licence obligation (98% 4G premises coverage UK, 95% in Scotland) had been met.

The Scottish Government has recently awarded the contract for the Scottish 4G Infill (S4GI) Programme in recognition of the failure of the UK-wide regulations model to deliver 4G services across much of Scotland. Backed by to £25 million of Scottish Government and public funding, S4GI will deliver future-proofed, 4G infrastructure to selected mobile ‘not-spots’ across Scotland over the four years to 2021-22. A deployment plan is being developed in conjunction with the supplier and this information will be made available as soon as possible.

While the Scottish Government is intervening on economic development grounds to increase 4G access through our £25 million S4GI Programme, the most effective means of improving geographic coverage of 4G services would be for Ofcom to ensure any future spectrum auctions are better designed in future to ensure coverage is maximised through ambitious coverage obligations that ensure that rural Scotland is not left behind.