Innovative Delivery to Remote Scottish Island

Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) has undertaken an ambitious project to enhance 4G connectivity on the remote Scottish island of Islay. The company utilized helicopters to transport six new 4G masts to the island, a strategy necessitated by Islay’s rural landscape and the absence of supportive infrastructure.

Part of the Shared Rural Network Initiative

This initiative forms part of VMO2’s commitment to the £1 billion Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme, a public-private partnership aimed at expanding 4G coverage across the UK’s most challenging terrains. Alongside VMO2, EE, Three, and Vodafone are collectively working to increase 4G geographic coverage to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025. The SRN involves both upgrading existing infrastructure and deploying new equipment, which will be shared among the four operators.

Funding and Coverage Expansion

The SRN, backed by £500 million of public funding matched by the mobile operators, aims to substantially increase connectivity in underserved areas. For Islay, this means boosting 4G coverage from 60% to 80%, significantly enhancing connectivity for residents and businesses.

Local Leaders Acknowledge Improvements

Councillor Liz McCabe, Policy Lead for Islands and Business Development, recognized the advancements in coverage in Argyll and Bute, acknowledging that the SRN programme will further improve connectivity in remote areas.

VMO2’s Wider Commitment

Paul Kells, Director of Network, Strategy and Engineering at Virgin Media O2, highlighted the broader benefits of the SRN rollout in Scotland, particularly in Argyll and Bute, where over 60 sites are being upgraded as part of the programme.

SRN Programme Progress

Launched in 2020, the SRN programme initially faced challenges due to extensive planning and research requirements. However, recent months have seen accelerated progress. VMO2 announced the completion of 50 sites by May, covering an additional 2,200km2 with 4G. Vodafone reached 57 sites by March, and other operators like Three UK and EE have also made significant strides, constructing numerous sites across the UK.