Good coverage is crucial for business

The telecommunications mast on St Williams Way in Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

The telecommunications mast on St Williams Way in Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Good mobile phone coverage is crucial to the economic prospects of Norfolk, according to business leaders who are demanding that the county is not left crawling in the slow lane when it comes to signal strength.

As the EDP's Let's Get Connected campaign is launched, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has thrown its weight behind our call.

The partnership, which has a remit to create private sector jobs and get rid of the barriers that prevent businesses growing, says poor coverage remains a major hurdle which needs to be cleared.

They say, while mobile phone providers make millions of pounds in profit, they are neglecting their customers in Norfolk.

Chris Starkie, managing director of the New Anglia LEP, said: 'We are supportive of this campaign and the problem of mobile coverage is something which the LEP board has discussed.

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'We have mobile phone companies advertising their 4Gservices, but there are parts of Norfolk and Suffolk which are yet to get 3G.

'Strong mobile phone coverage is critical to business growth, particularly in rural areas.

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'Our argument is that mobile phone coverage should be seen as a utility like water or electricity. It is a required service and a key part for any business.

'Every part of Norfolk and Suffolk should have good mobile phone coverage – and not just the urban areas, or rural areas are left at a disadvantage.'

Mr Starkie said the issue of poor coverage was one often raised by businesses and said some of the region's companies were success stories despite the handicap placed on them by the patchy network.

Anyone who has visited the coast around the Wash will know that network coverage is erratic at best.

In suburban areas like North and South Wootton it can be difficult to find a reliable signal on some networks and even in a town such as Downham Market there can be a problem.

Mike Ruston, secretary for Hunstanton Chamber of Trade, said: 'The mobile phone coverage anywhere in West Norfolk is pretty poor it doesn't matter which network you are on. I don't know what the problem is, whether it is investment in masts or what. Obviously mobile phones are very vital to the younger generation. The problem is well documented so when you stay here you put up with it but whether you should have to is another question.

'In Hunstanton we have used £10,000 funding which we got from the Portas Pilot Project to provide free WiFi in the town centre, along the promenade and around the green. It enables people to connect to the internet and send their messages or whatever they need to do. It is a start but it is not the same as having proper coverage.'

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