O2 delivers 4G to the UK's most northerly community

  • The tip of the Shetland Islands is just one of 366 areas that O2 has hooked up to 4G speeds in Scotland over the last 12 months.
  • The operator is continuing to innovate with new techniques to overcome the challenges of Scotland’s terrain, including the deployment of helicopters and off-road vehicles.

O2 customers on the Isle of Unst, the northernmost of the inhabited British Isles, can now enjoy the benefits of faster mobile speeds, thanks to the operator’s ongoing investment in Scotland.

A recent update to O2’s mast, which is geographically closer to Norway than Edinburgh, will also mean more reliable coverage for the 600 residents of Unst, improving 4G coverage not just where people live, but also where they might work – extending the network to farmers working in unpopulated areas of the island.

It will also help the thousands of tourists who visit Unst every year, allowing them to access local walking routes via their smartphones and to discover local attractions.

Throughout 2018, O2 has delivered high-speed 4G mobile coverage to 366 new locations across Scotland, which means the operator now covers a total of 2,387 cities, towns, villages and hamlets across the country.

To achieve this coverage milestone, the operator has used a number of unique techniques to overcome Scotland’s varied terrain and weather conditions.

By deploying helicopters and off-road vehicles, O2 has been able to install the new technology and digital infrastructure needed to bring 4G to even more Scottish customers.

Over the next 12 months, O2 will repeat some of these methods as it looks to connect up to 72 Scottish communities to its 4G network in 2019, which aims to take the operator’s level of indoor 4G coverage throughout Scotland to 94.6%.

In addition, the operator will also deliver enhanced connectivity to the Isle of Coll – a small Hebridean island of 220 inhabitants.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Connectivity Minister, said: “O2 has shown innovation and commitment to bring improved mobile coverage across Scotland and we welcome that.

“2018 was a year where good progress was made in 366 Scottish communities such as in Unst and it is really encouraging to see O2 continuing that momentum in 2019 with potentially up to 72 communities in Scotland including the Isle of Coll, benefiting from O2’s investment in the year ahead.  It is vital for Scottish business and consumers in all parts of the country that they and other mobile operators do so.”

Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer at O2, said: “The upgrade to our Saxa Vord site, and our new mast on the Isle of Coll, are part of our ongoing investment activity in Scotland. At O2 we are constantly challenging ourselves to deliver better connectivity for all of our customers, regardless of landscape or weather conditions.”

“We are committed to helping build a fully mobile Britain. The need for 4G connectivity is an integral part of modern daily life. We know mobile has the power to make a real, positive difference to people’s lives and businesses in rural communities across Scotland.”

Connecting rural communities

At the end of last year, O2 commissioned new economic research by Development Economics which found that Scotland was set to receive an overall boost to its economy of up to £20m per annum from enhanced 4G connectivity delivered by the mobile network operator in 2018.

The report, entitled ‘The Benefits of Connecting Rural Communities’, predicted that improved 4G connectivity will benefit over 14,000 rural businesses across the UK, boosting their collective revenue[1] by up to £141m per annum. A year on, the revenue boost to rural businesses could also inject as much as £44.6m in additional GVA[2].

Going to new heights to improve connectivity

Since 2017, as part of its commitment to improving high-speed coverage in Scotland, O2 has delivered enhanced 4G mobile coverage, as well as 2G and 3G coverage, including:

  • The installation of a 50m mast just outside of Inverness bringing 4G mobile connectivity to over 15 towns in the area.
  • The installation of the UK’s first fibre connected small cell network in Aberdeen – in partnership with Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) – improving network capacity and 4G connection speeds for shoppers and city workers and paving the way for 5G in the future.
  • The installation of 85 generators across the Highlands and Islands, to help ensure uninterrupted mobile coverage even when the power goes down due to poor weather – a move which saved customers 500 hours of connectivity.

O2 invests over £2 million every day to deliver the best-connected experience for its customers, helping to connect even more customers to high-speed 4G mobile connectivity and shape the future of a truly mobile Britain.

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[1] Revenue is the income that a business has from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers. Revenue is also referred to as sales or turnover.

[2] GVA (Gross Value Added) is a measure of the increase in the value of an economy due to the production of goods and services. It is measured at current basic prices, which include the effect of inflation, excluding taxes on products (for example, Value Added Tax).