Infill Programme to Challenge “Not Spots” in Rural Scotland
Four months after announcing its Infill Programme, the Scottish Government has granted a £25 million contract to WHP Telecoms to improve mobile connectivity in the Highlands and Islands.
The £25 million contract will see WHP begin work on 16 “not spots” toward the end of this year in a programme set to roll through to late-2022. Up to 70 additional areas will be targeted during the contract, aimed at improving and developing digital infrastructure.
The Scottish Government has placed a strong focus on the creation of high-speed mobile networks across the country; improving connectivity for businesses amid growing concerns that the rollout of superfast broadband is too slow. The contract with WHP will focus largely on areas completely without coverage to ensure no household or business is left in the dark.
Ensuring Rural Connectivity
In March 2018, the Scottish Government first announced funding for its Infill Programme, which will see the construction of mobile telephone masts across areas that currently lack 4G mobile coverage. The Infill Programme is a key component of the Scottish Government’s ambitious Mobile Action Plan.
WHP, which has an office in Bellshill, specialises in the installation and maintenance of mobile network masts for mobile operators. Employing over 400 staff, the Scottish Government believes it is perfectly suited to take on the task of developing rural connectivity – a task that faces a number of challenges.
Deploying mobile infrastructure in remote rural areas can be hampered by delays in securing planning permission. Additionally, contractors may face difficulty in identifying where “not spots” actually exist. The Scottish Government has passed legislation aimed at assisting contractors throughout this process by reducing planning controls. Connectivity Minister, Paul Wheelhouse says that further legislation could be introduced to help speed up the rollout.
Wheelhouse said: “We are working towards having the grant agreement with WHP Telecoms signed within the next week and we intend to make a deployment timescale available as soon as possible, to help inform local stakeholders on deliver.”