SNP MPs are 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 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, two rural SNP MPs from the north and south of Scotland – Drew Hendry and Calum Kerr – have responded with a call for a new approach to leverage far better mobile coverage from providers.
Both MPs will sit on the committee for the Digital Economy Bill, which is tasked with scrutinising the government’s plans, and have pledged to make sure that the views of rural consumers users across Scotland are heard in Westminster.
Commenting on today’s figures, Mr Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said:
“Rural areas such as the north of Scotland have for a long time lost out to more urban areas due to poor infrastructure and weak connectivity. This is why the UK Government needs to show more ambition when it comes to developing strategies for the future. “
“A key way this can be achieved is by ensuring that future technology licences specify that rural communities must be prioritised. It is not good enough to only take into account the technology mobile connectivity that is currently available.“
“The UK Government must plan for the next big development and the technologies that are about to come on stream.”
The MPs have highlighted the significance of improved digital infrastructure as the next generation of mobile connectivity – 5G – comes online over the coming decade.
Calum Kerr, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and the SNP’s Digital Spokesperson, commented:
“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.”
“We’re calling on the UK Government to follow this example and implement a rural first policy for future licenses”
“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.”