15-04-2009 : McARTHUR RECEIVES BACKING FROM HIE ON MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE
Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur, has been advised by Highlands & Islands Enterprise, (HIE), that their current research work into connectivity across the Highlands and Islands will include work with mobile phone companies to look at how HIE can support the roll out of better mobile phone coverage.
Liam McArthur had raised the issue with Sandy Cumming, the Chief Executive of HIE, at the same time as he lobbied the Mobile Operators Association and the Scottish Government urging them to work together to fill in the gaps in coverage.
Mr Cumming has advised that HIE's connectivity research will include discussions with mobile phone operators about their investment plans for the next three years and will also look at whether HIE is able to support further rollout of both 2G (voice) and 3G (voice plus mobile broadband) coverage in the Highlands and islands.
Commenting, Liam Mcarthur said, "Ever since I was elected, I have been raising with the mobile phone companies the need to fill in the gaps in mobile phone coverage in Orkney. I have received sympathetic replies but there has not been any noticeable improvement in the coverage. There was a proposal, over a year ago, to send a van up to Orkney to undertake a survey of the coverage, but to my knowledge this has not happened. Meanwhile, my constituents from across Orkney continue to raise their concerns about the poor coverage.
"I therefore approached the Mobile Operators Association again to urge them to act. I also raised the issue with the Scottish Government asking them if there is any scope for funding to help install the needed infrastructure, along the lines of the funding the Scottish Government provided to extend broadband coverage. I have yet to receive replies from the Association and the Government but I hope that, if HIE is also pursuing the issue, together we can get positive responses.
"Clearly the cost of erecting masts in sparsely populated areas is an issue for the mobile phone companies, but they should nevertheless be offering a national service across the whole of the UK. The news that the companies are now starting to share masts - Vodafone and O2 reached such an agreement recently - is helpful. It gives grounds for optimism as mast sharing should help to cut the costs the companies face as they fill in the gaps in their coverage. I will certainly keep up my efforts to get action to get full mobile coverage across all of Orkney."