The UK government has announced further details of its £150 million investment in improving mobile phone coverage - but Argyll and Bute is still near the back of the queue for an upgrade.
The first areas to benefit from the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) are due to go live by the end of this year in the first phase of a five-stage upgrade.
But a map issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as part of a news release on Tuesday shows Argyll and Bute as part of the ‘phase four’ stage of the project - with only the Highlands and Islands and a few small areas of north-west England and the England-Wales border behind it in the queue.
Tuesday’s release stated: “Arqiva has begun identifying suitable sites in a phased manner. Once suitable sites are identified, Arqiva will work to acquire rights to the sites and obtain planning permission before beginning the physical roll-out of infrastructure.”
We contacted the DCMS for further details, and were told by a spokesperson that surveying work to identify suitable sites in ‘phase four’ areas would begin in September of this year - although the five phases of the project were not necessarily a firm guide to the order in which new equipment will go live.
The aim of the project is to have all the sites idenfitied and the infrastructure built by 2015.
Communications minister Ed Vaizey said: “This project will see mobile phone coverage extended to many of the people who currently live and work in areas where there is none. The project will provide a significant boost to local economies across the UK, and will be instrumental in helping Britain win the global race.”
Arqiva, the communications infrastructure and media services company, will build the new infrastructure once sites had been identified, using capital funding provided by the Westminster government, while the four mobile network operators - EE, Telefonica, Three and Vodafone - will provide coverage from the sites and fund their operating costs during the 20-year life of the project.