Plans drawn up to legislate to improve mobile phone coverage

No phone signal. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

No phone signal. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Measures which would force mobile phone operators to share networks and masts to improve mobile phone signal are being weighed up by the government, which will today launch a consultation into its plans.

Culture secretary Sajid Javid is asking for views on the measures, which would be similar to the way phone masts operate in some other countries. The plans could also see mobile networks allowed to put transmitters on each other's masts.

Mr Javid has also announced today that he would also look at a 'coverage obligation', to force operators to cover a certain percentage of the UK, but he would leave it open for them to decide how to best to achieve this outcome. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is asking for views on its plans until November 26.

The Eastern Daily Press has been running a campaign to highlight the problem of not-spots in our region.

But George Nobbs, Labour leader of Norfolk County Council said it was a 'bit late' for the government to discover it is an urgent problem.

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He said: 'Norfolk suffers, as so many non-metropolitan areas do, from poor mobile coverage. It is a bit late for the government to discover it is an urgent problem.

'Norfolk County Council has done more than most on trying to increase the coverage.'

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Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'At present Norfolk suffers from either a poor mobile service or no mobile service. This can seriously affect the ability of SME businesses in our county, especially those based in more rural or isolated areas, to compete on a national level with other businesses who currently benefit from decent mobile coverage.

'Even when the 'not-spots' are reduced, it will still mean that good quality coverage will not be available across the whole of Norfolk.

'Further investment is needed and the Norfolk Chamber, together with the local business community, will continue to lobby the government and the mobile phone operators to achieve this.'

Mr Javid said the consultation would give the government the chance to hear views on these proposals from all interested parties.

He said: 'I'm determined to ensure the UK has world-class mobile phone coverage.

'It can't be right that in a fifth of the UK, people cannot use their phones to make a call. The government isn't prepared to let that situation continue.'

Ann Steward , Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Norfolk said: 'I welcome todays announcement from the Culture Secretary Sajid David setting out plans to eliminate the poor mobile coverage. In Norfolk as a whole figures show that 21% of the county has partially mobile phone coverage.

In North Norfolk in particular the tourism and agricultural sectors are explaining that this is holding back their businesses and business growth plans and with the recent floods and tidal surges mobiles are a vital way of warning, and keeping in touch with communities.

'I recently attended a meeting in Westminster with Ed Vaisey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, together with George Freeman MP and the private sector for a trial for mobile coverage, and we are awaiting a response from the Minister.

'This is a top priority in my manifesto, and I will certainly be in close touch with Westminster to ensure that North Norfolk is at the forefront of investment.'

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