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McArthur — 4G progress ‘disappointing’

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur.

Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur, has expressed his disappointment at what he feels is a lack of progress in installing new mobile phone infrastructure in Orkney as part of the 4G Infill Programme.

Mr McArthur submitted written parliamentary questions in an attempt to find out if any new mast sites have been identified in Orkney. He also asked for an update on the progress of current candidate mast locations in Burray, Hoy and Stromness.

In response, Paul Wheelhouse, minister for connectivity and the islands, stated that no new proposed mast locations have been introduced since April 2019 and — despite regular engagement with mobile operators — no operator has committed to using any of the candidate mast locations.

Last July, Mr McArthur wrote to mobile phone operators urging them to engage constructively with the programme in Orkney.

The MSP said: “It is disappointing to see that progress in closing gaps in mobile phone coverage across Orkney appears to have stalled.

“While the Minister has provided assurances that discussions with mobile phone companies are ongoing, there is no sign they are prepared to engage seriously.  Sites have been identified in Stromness, Hoy and Burray, yet people and businesses in these communities are missing out on the better mobile coverage that should be available.

“Meantime, efforts to identify new sites appear to have come to a complete halt. That is not good enough.

“Ministers and mobile phone operators clearly agreed that public money was needed to plug existing gaps in the network. Since then, however, neither has been prepared to follow this up with action on the ground. As a result, we now have a 4G Infill Programme that is doing next to no infilling.

“I will be urging Ministers to investigate why so little progress has been made and reiterating the need to get the programme back on track”.

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