Mobile phone reception on Coll
There are currently (Apr 2021) two operational mobile phone masts on Coll. A third is in the pipeline having been granted planning permission (Oct 2020).
EE operate from both masts (soon to be all three).
Vodafone and O2 only operate from the mast on the hill in the middle of Coll (Cnocan na Ban).
All three of EE's masts have/will have battery and diesel/LPG generator backup. Vodafone and O2 only have short-life battery backup.
However, there's a lot more to this complicated story. Most mobile reception on the east coast of Coll, from Sorisdale down the wilderness coast to Arinagour village, beyond to Hyne and even Port na Luing, receive mobile signals from Ardnamurchan, Mull/Ross of Mull - not as many would like to believe, from Coll's community-owned mast at Cnocan na Ban. Within Arinagour (O2 & Vodafone), the higher positioned houses receive from Cnocan na Ban while the lochside properties and down to Calmac's pier get their signals from Mull. EE's coverage of Arinagour is total as they transmit from the village mast at the BT station.
From Acha, south-west to the airport and around the west coast and as far north as Windy Gap is served by Tiree and/or Coll's Cnocan na Ban mast.
Unfortunately, there are still places without a signal, or it's too week, particularly on beaches and in hollows.
A third mast, soon to be erected on Windy Gap, will serve the east end of Coll from Gallanach to Sorisdale but only for those on EE. The mast is being installed as part of a government strategy for 4G emergency services coverage.
On the face of it, it may appear EE offers the best option. However, their Arinagour mast (and probably* their soon-to-be-erected mast at Windy Gap) only transmit on 1800 MHz, frequencies which may only be available to EE contract phones - and not on Pay-As-You-Go deals (this may have changed by now) - and not available to other phone suppliers that piggy-back off EE towers (see MVNOs link).
Coll's central Cnocan na Ban mast transmits on 800MHz for all three operators and, additionally, 1800MHz for EE.
Other complications to throw into the mix are that you don't always connect to your nearest mast. However, on Coll this is unlikely as there's little choice and it's hard to image any mast in the inner Hebrides being so swamped with traffic you're re-routed to the next mast.
A likely variable affecting how good your signal is, or where you connect to, is invisible to the user. All the 4G providers reduce their masts' transmission power to the minimum they can get away with. From Huawei data, a typical 4G mast consumes 6-7kW of electricity. If the provider can lower the power of transmissions then their electricity bill will be significantly reduced. Even though Coll's masts are atypically smaller (less powerful), the energy consumed by 4G masts on Coll should concern environmentalists as they, most probably, are the largest consumers of island electricity.
5G will hike up energy consumption by a further 70%. Even scarier, the carbon pollution of energy consumed to support world mobile networks & servers storing our social-media gossip, is greater than that generated by the whole world's air travel.
MVNOs: a guide to virtual networks (which network your mobile phone works on)
Where's my mobile signal coming from: Android App here (There's no Apple equivalent app). However, beware of the App's 'map' showing where the masts are located - it's notoriously inaccurate!. The mast identification code displayed in the app is, however, accurate and what one should pay attention to.
If you're considering going 4G for your broadband by installing an external aerial, suggested readings, I hope it'll help.
List of operating frequencies used by UK's four mobile operators - here
The situation is dynamic with improvements all the time, so please keep an eye on this page. I'll do my best to update as soon as I get any information but real information, as opposed to social-media hearsay and/or wishful thinking, is sometimes difficult to come by. The mobile phone network is quite secret and, for example, technical details of the two operating masts on Coll is close to impossible to find on the internet.
* Still unsure on this one, only time will tell. 800MHz signals are more penetrative and travel further then 1800MHz signals but 800MHz has less bandwidth/speed. Since the Windy Gap transmitter has to cover all the East end of Coll it may well use both frequencies to cover the distance. Most EE remote, west-coast masts operate on Band 3 (1800MHz).