Calls to tackle poor mobile phone coverage in Norfolk’s rural areas

Norfolk needs morer investment in mobile phone coverage in its rural areas, county councillors will argue next month. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire Norfolk needs morer investment in mobile phone coverage in its rural areas, county councillors will argue next month. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Thursday, August 14, 2014
9:51 AM

Mobile phone company bosses are to be sent a clear signal by Norfolk councillors - it is time to invest in the county’s coverage to boost business and tourism.

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North Norfolk

Mobile phone signal is patchy across the whole of north Norfolk with “blackspots” along parts of the coast.

Blakeney, Cley and Salthouse has no signal for the majority of phone networks and there are also service problems in Overstrand and Itteringham near the Blickling Estate.

Jono Read, a campaigner for better Vodafone signal in north Norfolk, said: “There is not one network that covers the whole of north Norfolk.

“The government has to do more in terms of investment. Sharing of technology could be done on a larger scale.”

Sheringham has had Vodafone service problems in the past.

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As a new report by watchdogs Ofcom revealed how rural areas are still getting a raw deal when it comes to coverage, Norfolk County councillors are to meet representatives of Vodafone to call for cash to be spent in the county.

Vodafone, according to official figures compiled by the telecoms regulator, provided the poorest service in rural areas, with one in five calls on their network failing.

Ofcom used data from RootMetrics, a company that measures network performance on mobile handsets, to better understand consumers’ experience of making phone calls on EE, O2, Three and Vodafone networks.

The map is compiled from data collected from users of Opensignal’s Android and iPhone application. This data is stripped of any identifying information, and uploaded to servers, after which the information is openly available in map format on their website, www.opensignal.com.The map is compiled from data collected from users of Opensignal’s Android and iPhone application. This data is stripped of any identifying information, and uploaded to servers, after which the information is openly available in map format on their website, www.opensignal.com.

According to that data, 97% of calls on the EE network were successfully connected, 95.3% on O2, 94.5% on Three and 92.6% on Vodafone during the second half of 2013.

In rural areas, 93.7% of EE calls connected, 87.4% on O2, 86% on Three and 79.9% on Vodafone.

While Vodafone said those figures were now out of date, a group of county councillors will next month be challenging them to do more to boost coverage in Norfolk.

The company has launched a national programme giving up to 100 rural communities the chance to get Open Sure Signal technology in their villages and hamlets as part of a £1bn investment in its network.

South Norfolk

The south Norfolk area is considered to be one of the worst for mobile phone coverage despite being sandwiched between two major telcommunication masts at Mendlesham and Tacolneston.

The signal is particularly bad in lower lying areas of Diss, where it can be obstructed by buildings and trees, while quality is also poor around Eye airfield.

Concert goers and visitors to Thetford forest also find that they have to grapple with a loss of signal, as there is virtually no coverage in amongst the trees.

Even in Roydon, which is on relatively high ground on the outskirts of Diss, the signal can be erratic and it seems the best place in the area to get a signal is west of the town between Roydon and Thetford.

And a group of county councillors, who formed a working party to look at the problems with mobile coverage in Norfolk, will meet Vodafone representatives on September 1 to make the case that the technology should come to the county.

Dr Marie Strong, chairman of the council’s broadband, mobile and digital working group and county councillor for Wells, said: “Good mobile phone coverage makes a tremendous difference - to tourism and to business.

“I had a visitor to Wells who was waving her phone around on the quayside trying to get a signal and when I asked her about it, she said she had been on holiday to the Suez Canal the previous week and had a perfect signal, but couldn’t get one in Wells. That just shows the problems faced.

“For smaller businesses, good mobile phone coverage is as important to them as good broadband.”

EDP Norfolk Magazine gadget column writer Jono Read. Photo: Steve AdamsEDP Norfolk Magazine gadget column writer Jono Read. Photo: Steve Adams

Dr Strong, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, added the working group intended to make a solid case to Vodafone that Norfolk deserved further investment. She urged communities to apply to the scheme.

On the figures released by Ofcom, a spokesman for Vodafone, said: “Regular independent testing of our network shows that we’re market leader for call set up and we’re one of the best for call continuity.

“Vodafone UK continues to invest heavily in its network and services, and we’re spending £1bn alone this year to improve mobile coverage and quality.

“The previously published RootMetrics’ report is based on old network measurements taken between June and December last year, which were disproved by more up-to-date findings in spring 2014.”

The county council. which has already pledged to match-fund a project to bring superfast broadband to Norfolk. is still hoping to benefit from a share of a £150m funding pot to improve mobile phone coverage.

The government’s Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) has earmarked the money to improve mobile network services across the whole of the UK in areas defined as “complete not spots”, where mobile signals currently do not exist.

Funds have already been confirmed through the MIP scheme for improving the mobile signal along the A143 corridor, between Great Yarmouth and Haverhill.

Last year, members of Norfolk County Council agreed to lobby the government and MPs to prioritise the ‘not spots’ in the county’s mobile phone coverage.

Twelve new clusters of Norfolk ‘not spots’ were identified this year, but the county council has not revealed where they are because their locations were shared with the authority under a non-disclosure agreement.

In June, the government unveiled plans to force operators to share their networks for users in the UK.

That scheme won support from prime minister David Cameron, who reportedly became frustrated after repeatedly losing a signal during a visit to Norfolk.

Norfolk was one of three counties officials focused on when investigating the policy earlier this year, along with Shropshire and Dorset.

The EDP last year launched its Let’s Get Connected campaign to highlight the need for improvements to mobile phone coverage in Norfolk.

WEST NORFOLK

Coverage is poor in parts of West Norfolk and temperamental in others.

Presumably the Queen and members of the Royal Family do not tend to use their mobiles much when they’re in Norfolk, as Sandringham is one of the patchier areas.

Reception can be reasonable in King’s Lynn – with even 3G most of the time. Along the nearby coastline, you phone might say it’s got three or four bars of signal, but when you go to make a call, it fails.

Perhaps it’s because the network is over-subscribed in summer, when tens of thousands of extra thumbs are texting and updating their status on their hols.

WAVENEY

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has said mobile coverage is very poor in certain rural parts of his constituency, which covers Lowestoft and the towns of Bungay and Beccles.

He said the main patch with signal problems was the St James South Elmham and Ilketshall St Lawrence area and there were some difficulties around Barnby and North Cove.

Mr Aldous said: “It is very bad in pockets.”

Mr Aldous and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey have supported a government proposal for mobile phone companies to share masts for roaming to improve coverage in the region.

• What do you think of mobile phone coverage where you live? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

5 comments

  • 20 years too late for broken Britain I am afraid. The Uk is a joke in rural mountainous Slovenia I have always had a superior mobile and broadband signal than I ever had in Norfolk or London. Only when government puts people before profit will things change and that means an armed revolution tomorrow

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    Canaryinslovenia

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

  • For years there were campaigns fought nearly every week in the Press about those terrible mobile phone masts and we were all going to die because of them. If a health problem was not the issue it was a visual problem, few wanted them to be seen anywhere. Now as more and more people have mobile phones, suddenly health scares are not the issue, we have the cry that they cannot get a signal. So do they now accept more mobile phone masts or not? No mast available — no signal.

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    mike smith

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

  • From Thorpe End to half way up the Acle straight the area is void of any mobile internet signal on vodafone strong enough to even receive an email! As for network for making and receiving calls in the salhouse woodbastwick area, it is absolutely useless. With this area being exceptionally busy for the broads tourism and also the safety of cyclists, walkers and horse riders, Vodafone representatives should try spending some time in this area and seeing for themselves how people paying for their services are being short changed!

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    toots

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

  • I live on the Suffolk Essex border and have been on Orange (EE) for years. Last month I enjoyed a short break in North Norfolk but having read about signal problems, I took an additional mobile on Vodaphone with me. I did find some dead spots for both networks but Vodaphone seemed to be a winner for me.

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    The original Victor Meldrew

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

  • How about sorting out the awful dial up, sorry, broadband internet in the county first? Where I live I can only get 1-1.5mb during the day and at night I might as well not bother. The new houses which are five metres away have super fast broadband.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    Alva

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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