Fix Scotland’s ‘unacceptable’ mobile coverage

Friday February 2nd 2018

4G

The UK Government must take action to fix Scotland’s ‘unacceptable’ mobile phone coverage, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) will tell MPs.

During an evidence session with the Scottish Affairs Committee on Monday (5 February), the FSB will highlight official figures showing that just 17 per cent of Scotland’s geography has 4G mobile coverage, compared to 60 per cent of England’s landmass.

In written evidence to the influential committee, the small business campaign group argues that Scotland-specific coverage obligations should be attached to future mobile spectrum sales.

Mobile coverage – Ofcom

 

  Geographic 4G coverage, % of landmass Indoor 4G coverage, % of premises
  2017 2016 2017 2016
UK 43% 21% 58% 40%
England 60% 32% 60% 42%
Scotland 17% 6% 53% 33%

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a corporate high flyer, a local tradesperson or an international tourist, Scotland’s spotty mobile connectivity results in missed opportunities and wasted time.

“While some allowances could be made for differences in geography and population density, these figures show that the gap between Scotland and England is unacceptably wide – as it has been for some time.

“Ofcom have suggested that nation specific coverage obligations might be a means to address this embarrassing problem. The Scottish Affairs Committee must push the UK Government to take up this proposal.”

The Scottish Affairs Committee is currently investigating digital connectivity in Scotland.

In their submission, FSB highlights that while superfast broadband availability in Scotland has improved, it still lags behind England.

Superfast broadband availability – Ofcom – (premises)

  2017 2016 2015
UK 91% 89% 83%
England 92% 90% 84%
Scotland 87% 83% 73%

The small business membership body expresses support for the Scottish Government commitment to deliver universal superfast broadband in Scotland but warns that it is not well-understood that a voucher-scheme will be used for elements of the roll-out.

Andy Willox said: “The ambition to deliver universal superfast broadband in Scotland is absolutely right. But expectations are high and rising, and the Scottish Government must not disappoint communities and local businesses. They must clearly communicate with every currently underserved premises when they should expect superfast availability and what technology will be deployed to deliver this connectivity.”

FSB also argues that the Scottish Government, the UK Government and local government must work more closely together to develop digital infrastructure that works for Scotland – underlining that the adversarial approach adopted by opposing MSPs and MPs has not been helpful.

Andy Willox said: “Improving Scotland’s historically patchy digital infrastructure is a top priority for Scotland’s business community. Therefore, politicians from across the political spectrum must work constructively to develop realistic plans which deliver for local economies and communities.”

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