The debate about 4G phone masts

The Chair of APRS and SCNP, John Thomson, responded to the Shared Rural Network’s 4G coverage targets. APRS has also signed three joint letters.

Ensuring that even out-of-the-way communities enjoy the access to the modern communications that others take for granted is an admirable objective. Indeed, such connectivity is arguably even more important for them than for those in more accessible and densely populated locations. But the rash of masts now proposed for the Wester Ross Biosphere illustrates perfectly the danger of pursuing valid goals too simplistically and with inadequate regard to local circumstances. In areas like these there is simply no need for such blanket geographical coverage of land-based telecommunications.

The territory affected by the proposed developments is some of the most wildly beautiful in the British Isles. Much of it is virtually uninhabited. The absence of intrusive human artefacts and the sense of isolation and even jeopardy that this induces is increasingly rare in the UK and even the rest of Western Europe, and prized all the more highly as a result. The outstanding value of Wester Ross in this respect is reflected in its prominence in NatureScot’s map of Wild Land Areas.

Such terrain is simply not the place for tall metal structures of the type envisaged, let alone the access infrastructure that goes with them, especially when satellite-based alternatives are available for emergency service use. An element of personal risk is often part of the experience sought by many of those who venture into such places. It is not one of which they should be unnecessarily – and expensively – deprived.

John Thomson, Chair APRS and SCNP
November 2023

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