Monday, 15 September 2008

Plea not to ignore Highlands

Telecom companies told: Don’t leave us behind

By Sue Restan
Published: 15/09/2008

Politicians are calling for telecommunications companies to include the Highlands when rolling out new technology in the UK.

Maxine Smith, who is one of the councillors for Cromarty Firth ward, said they seemed to ignore rural areas.

She said the latest 3G mobile broadband service was not yet available in most of the Highlands.

It is the third generation of mobile phone standards and technology, enabling network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while getting greater network capacity.

Services include wide-area wireless voice telephony, video calls, and broadband wireless data, all in a mobile environment.

“It is important that we do not accept being left behind with technology or being left out of companies' programmes when new concepts are thought of and introduced in other places in the UK,” said Councillor Smith.

“The Highlands is as important as any other area in Scotland, England or Wales and should be equal in terms of infrastructure and tech- nology.”

The SNP councillor added: “Now this issue has been brought to my attention, I will be lobbying different quarters until the Highlands is brought on to a level playing field.”

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson said he was about to do a consultation with people in various parts of the country about broadband rollout.

He is also keen to identify the places without 3G coverage.

Mr Gibson said: “My view is that the telecommunications companies could get a lot more business, from both Highland residents and visitors, if we had 3G.”
A spokesman for Vodafone said 3G was available only in a small area around Inverness and an even smaller area in Elgin.

He said there were no plans to increase coverage in the next six months.

“The rollout is always going to be a business decision and coverage is focused on the major conurbations. As was the case with 2G, it is an evolving pattern of coverage,” said the spokesman.

An Orange spokeswoman said:

“We already offer 3G coverage in high population areas in the Highlands. We will continue to invest to enhance the experience for our customers.”

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