As a result of the community survey commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, one of the key projects outlined in the Growth Plan was for improved mobile communications coverage.

Over a number of years Development Coll (DC) investigated whether it could facilitate the delivery of mobile coverage to the Isle of Coll and has worked with the Scottish Government since early 2013 to make this possible.

Vodafone had expressed interest in working with the local community and the Scottish Government to see whether a model could be created where mobile equipment is provided, at its own cost, on the basis that it could use the mast free of charge. The model would enable them to provide a mobile service across Coll by integrating it into its national network. The mast would then have to be maintained by Development Coll and the mobile service supported by Vodafone for at least 15 years.

In December 2013 the community were invited to a meeting to gain an overview of the proposed service and to ask questions relating to them. A suitable plot of land was found to site a mobile mast and the project started to take shape in the summer of 2014.

The mobile mast was up and running by May 2015. The 4G coverage that it brings to most of the island is important and valuable not only for the small businesses, locals and visitors but also for the various utility companies serving Coll.

Following a visit in the summer of 2015 by consultants from Mono and Vodafone, the mast was tweaked to enhance coverage in the village. The east end remains poorly covered until Sorisdale when the pick-up comes from the mast on Mull. Not only does most of the island have good coverage but the signal also reaches parts of the north of Mull which were not covered before, and more importantly to a large area of Tiree, particularly around the pier.

The cost of electricity remains a concern. From an initial estimate of £1,000 the annual cost has increased significantly. We are very grateful indeed for the support of the NHS, Argyll & Bute Council, Strathclyde Fire & Rescue, Scottish Water and Project Trust for a pledge to support most of this cost for five years, but we need to find sustainability long term and we are working with the Scottish Futures Trust on this.

The island is indebted to all of those who have helped to make this mast possible, and we are pleased that it is proving to be of benefit to so many people.

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