A SCOTS island has been dragged into the 21st century after finally getting mobile phone coverage for the first time.
Not only that, but the inner Hebridean island of Coll has become the first off Scotland to have access to 2G, 3G and 4G telecommunications services.
The 50ft phone mast, which will allow reception on the island, will be of huge benefit to the 200 residents and will also help emergency services, including the local GP.
The £165,000 project is being funded by a partnership between community-run organisation Development Coll, the Scottish Government and Vodafone.
It is part of the Scottish Government’s Demonstrating Digital Programme, which will also test the model of community ownership of a mobile mast in a location not previously seen as ‘commercially viable’ by mobile operators.
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure Keith Brown described the roll-out as “a massive breakthrough” which could “help transform the local economy”.
The switch-on means local people, businesses and the wider community can have faster and more reliable mobile access, ultimately boosting business opportunities for islanders.
Mr Brown said: “The Isle of Coll project is a great example of what can be achieved when a community has the ambition and the commitment to making such a development work.
“A state-of-the-art telecoms mast – funded by the Scottish Government as part of our Demonstrating Digital programme, which supports our digital world class 2020 vision – allows communities and businesses on Coll to access mobile services for the first time.
“It’s very encouraging to see a local community and a service provider – in this case Vodafone – work with the government to develop an innovative solution for an area that is otherwise unlikely to receive mobile coverage.
“This community ownership model provides a template that has the potential to be adopted in other remote areas across the country, improving connectivity to Scotland’s islands and rural towns and villages.”
Vodafone UK Chief Technology Officer Jorge Fernandes added: “Our partnership with the Scottish Government and the local community is the ideal business model to be able to deliver ultra-fast 4G mobile communications to remote locations, such as the Isle of Coll.
“Thanks to the enormous effort of our engineers, we can now give islanders high-speed mobile data access to services that will enable greater economic development and improved social inclusion.
“This initiative is real evidence of what we can achieve together, when the required fixed connection is in place to link our 4G network in remote places to the national fixed line infrastructure.”
Lavinia MacLean-Bristol, chair of Development Coll, said: “The ability to communicate has a real impact on families and businesses within small, remote communities such as ours and this project will help to make a big difference.”
Derek Graham, Programme Director with the Demonstrating Digital team at Scottish Futures Trusty, added: “This is a great example of what can be achieved in a collaborative environment, allowing locals and visitors to the Island of Coll access to mobile and data services for the very first time.
“We very much look forward to seeing the many benefits that the introduction of mobile technology will have on the lives of those visiting, living and working on Coll.”
The Coll project is the first of several pilots that the Scottish Government and Scottish Futures Trust will use to evaluate the potential for this approach to be replicated to address mobile not-spots in other remote communities in the future.