Reepham businesses frustrated at missing out on mobile phone cash
- Credit: Archant
Business owners in Reepham are pushing for the town to be included in a list of mobile 'not-spots' amid disappointment that the government has only identified one area to target for improvement in Norfolk.
The government this month said the A143, which runs from Great Yarmouth to Haverhill in Suffolk was one of 10 roads to benefit from its £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) to improve patchy mobile phone coverage.
But businesses in Reepham have been campaigning for improvements to the mobile-phone signal provision in the town amid concerns at the lack of signal in the town and surrounding area.
Under the scheme, the government has provided capital funding to private firm Arqiva to build the new site infrastructure, while the four Mobile Network Operators (EE, Telefonica, Three and Vodafone) will be providing coverage from the sites and funding their operating costs for the 20-year life of the project.
To that end, Arquiva will identify a not-spot as a 200sq m area where there is absolutely no signal, including for emergency calls with either of the big four mobile providers.
Brenda Gostling, chairman of Reepham Chamber, said members were continuing to lobby to get the Market Place recognised as an important 'not-spot'.
'We had hoped that the MIP would benefit 'not-spots' in small rural business hubs like Reepham, but we have been told that this is unlikely to happen,' she said.
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'We have more than 30 businesses based in and around Reepham Market Place and the lack of mobile signal has an impact, to some degree, on them all.'
James Ellis, marketing director of Norfolk Country Cottages, based in the town, said the lack of a signal was 'challenging' for the business.
'Visitors to our offices are delighted by Reepham's rural charm, but find it almost inconceivable that somewhere that has a significant business presence can exist without mobile phone communication,' he said.
'For our own teams, we have had to invest in Vodaphone signal boosters which are limited on the number of mobiles that can use them, not always very good quality and use up our internet bandwidth. A proper mobile phone signal would be much more effective'.
Claire Tuck from Bonhams auctioneers, whose Norfolk office is located in Reepham Market Place, also supports the campaign to improve Reepham's mobile-phone signal. 'I am reliant on a fixed network connection to my laptop in order to communicate with the outside world and unable to benefit from all that smart phone technology offers,' she said.
'Secondly, and just as importantly, we are unable to fit a smart meter at the office to monitor our electricity usage. Smart meters work on a minimum mobile signal being present and would really be of benefit not just to us but the rest of the residents and businesses around the Market Place.'
A spokesman for the Department for Culture Media and Sport, which is overseeing the scheme, said: 'Arquiva are doing a scoping exercise, going out into areas looking at where the not-spots are.
'At the moment there is no definitive list. They are going to all the areas affected and working out where they can put something to benefit the most people.
'The money can only be spent in an 'absolute' not-spot, so good reception for one company, but not another means that they won't qualify.'