Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland has challenged the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Wright QC MP, over the lack of mobile phone signal in rural communities.
Raising the issue in the House of Commons, Mr. Carmichael said:
“Recent research from Which? and OpenSignal showed that 4G users on average in Scotland get a 4G signal only 50.4% of the time. Compared with the same figure in London and its 69.7%. In Wales it is as low as 35%. What is the Government doing about that?”
Responding, Mr. Wright said:
"The Rt. Hon. Gentleman is, of course, right that there is considerably more progress to be made, and I don’t need to explain to him the particular geographical difficulties that there are in Scotland. I think it is also worth recognising, although he is right that there is considerably more progress yet to be made, that considerable progress has been made. He quotes those figures, but there are slightly different figures, of course, when one looks at 4G coverage from at least one mobile network operator and the increase from last year to this year is considerable. In June last year 50% of Scotland was covered by at least one network operator at 4G level and now it is up to 75% so I agree with him that there is work to be done, and we intend to do it."
Speaking after the exchange, Mr. Carmichael added:
“The Minister may well think that things are progressing considerably, but the report which he quoted in response to me, Ofcom’s connecting nations report, also shows that 6.2% of homes in Shetland and 4.5% of homes in Orkney do not get 2G from any provider, let alone 4G. I agree that considerable progress has been made, but for far too many in our community, that improvement has not been their experience.
“While the Minister’s plan of reaching 95% of the UK is ambitious, we know that the Northern Isles are, all too often, in that last 5%. I want to hear from the Minister when we in Orkney and Shetland can expect our fair share of the service improvements.
“The Minister’s commitment is welcome, but these are just words, and we have all heard them before. What we need to see are improvements, and investments, and they are still not reaching us.”