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New 4G coverage connects Scotland’s most remote emergency services

Patient safety and critical medical care has been boosted across the Highlands and Islands as new 4G coverage connects Scotland’s most remote emergency services.

Jura Medical Practice is just one of the organisations that is seeing an end to signal ‘blackspots’ thanks to EE’s partnerships with the Scottish Government, WHP Telecoms and Scottish Futures Trust. The new high-speed 4G connectivity, provided by two new masts on the Isle of Jura, will see the Jura Medical Practice able to communicate more effectively with its helicopter landing pad in the event of an emergency, as well as ensure on-call doctors can be reached.

These positive changes are a direct result of 13 new 4G masts that have been installed across the Highlands and Islands this year. These 13 ‘blackspots’ have been connected as part of the Scottish Government’s £28.75 million Scottish 4G Infill programme (S4GI), which is delivering 4G infrastructure and services to areas in rural Scotland which previously had extremely limited mobile coverage.

The project will be activating a further six remote areas across the Highlands and Islands in 2023.

The new sites will provide vital connectivity to Scottish emergency services and Mountain Rescue. Residents, visitors, and businesses will also be able to access and benefit from a reliable 4G mobile service.

Jura Medical Practice has already seen a significant difference since the installation of the Craighouse and Ardlussa masts on the island, enabling it to switch to a modern VoIP phone system and providing reliable connectivity for on-call and locum staff.

The medical practice often uses the life-saving helicopter to transfer patients to mainland hospitals. Previously, the landing site was a signal ‘blackspot’, preventing effective communication between Jura medical teams and the pilots. Yet, with the new 4G coverage, the team can communicate with the helicopter as well as track the progress of the flight, using the flight tracker app over 4G.

Dr Martin Beastall at Jura Medical Practice said: “The new connectivity has delivered a hugely important boost to our day-to-day operations. Our helicopter landing site is used in the most critical situations, and so the importance of fast and reliable communication cannot be underestimated. Having access to EE’s 4G network means we can operate more effectively and ensures that we have a reliable connection to communicate when we need it most. The local area is popular with walkers and hikers, so to have access to 4G in an emergency is reassuring for both our staff and the public.”

The Scottish Government’s S4GI programme is delivering 55 masts, including those also being used by EE as part of the ESN roll-out.

Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer at BT Group, said: “Together with the Scottish Government and our industry partners, we are delivering the connectivity boost rural communities so desperately need in the digital age. These new sites represent an important step forward in our mission to provide local people, businesses, and emergency services with fast and reliable 4G mobile connectivity across the Scottish Highlands and Islands.”

Scottish Government Innovation Minister Richard Lochhead said: “Our new 4G masts in the Highlands and Islands demonstrate once again our commitment to providing future-proofed digital connectivity to residents and businesses in all parts of the country, no matter where they live.

“Thanks to this £28.75 million Scottish Government programme, local residents, businesses and visitors in all these communities can access 4G for the first time, enhancing how they work, communicate and access public services. Availability of 4G services also creates more opportunities for businesses in the area, helping them improve their efficiency and productivity.”

Martyn Cheyne, Group Chief Strategic Officer at WHP Telecoms Ltd, said: “WHP Estates is pleased that these shareable structures are now facilitating reliable coverage to many of the more remote communities across the Highlands and Islands. ‘Digitally Levelling Up’ these not-spots is transformational, unlocking the latent talent and creativity allowing businesses and communities to not just retain but also attract people to grow and thrive. Those of us in the telecoms industry are redoubling our efforts to meet the challenges ahead on the SRN (Shared Rural Network), as for every not-spot we have covered so far there are many more which still urgently require this life-enhancing connectivity.”

CT Bureau

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