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More calls to bring region’s phone signal up to speed after man with profound deafness left ‘vulnerable and isolated’ by broken down car

Mobile phone masts on the water tower on Norwich Road, North Walsham.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Mobile phone masts on the water tower on Norwich Road, North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

A deaf man who said he was left “vulnerable and isolated” when his car broke down has called for more to be done to bring the region’s mobile phone signal up to speed.

‘It could cost lives’

One reader emailed us their experience.

“Regarding the issue of mobile phone signal, two weeks ago I was in an ambulance with a very sick relative on our way from Watton to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital with lights and sirens going.

“The crew were trying to phone ahead to inform the hospital of my aunt’s condition so they would be ready for her arrival.

“When they could actually get a signal, they made the call, but proceeded to lose it again twice during the call.

“This mobile service is not good enough and could cost lives.”

Describing himself as “confident and capable”, Steve Hurley says he does not let his profound deafness limit him.

But last week, he was left “vulnerable and isolated” when his car broke down on the busy A140, in between Diss and Scole, as he drove to work in Norwich.

It comes after we revealed the results of a survey of 1,300 readers, who told us just how badly poor connection was affecting them.

When Mr Hurley, 43, found himself with a broken car on his hands, he texted his family and friends and a number given to him by his breakdown cover provider for hard of hearing customers.

What did our survey find?

We asked people to rate their moblie phone signal on a scale of one to 10, one being the worst.

• 86.6pc of people, 1,134, said bad mobile phone signal had caused them problems in the past

• Of all those surveyed, 39.3pc, 506 people, rated the signal as one out of 10

• In comparison, just 49 people, 3.8pc, gave it the highest rating of 10

• 68pc of respondents rated their 3G connection, on which data downloads and uploads, with the lowest scores of 1, 2 or 3

• The four biggest providers were Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three

• All four companies said future upgrades were planned, though Vodafone said permission to build masts and a lack of infrastructure was challenging

He waited – and waited.

At the time, he said, rush hour was in “full, blurry swing”, with commuters and lorries barrelling past his car. “Standing shiftily on the roadside it occurred to me that no one at all had replied to my brief messages, not even that friend who always has her phone in her hand,” he said.

Confused, he checked his phone once more – and spotted that he was without signal.

Desperate to make contact, Mr Hurley, from Norwich, tried to find a connection, to no avail. Finally, after much pacing up and down, one bar appeared.

A three-way call between him, his interpreter and a call operator – which had to be repeated twice – followed, and saw a recovery vehicle ordered.

It was after three-and-a-half hours that Mr Hurley was eventually picked up from the roadside.

Reflecting, he said he felt the “system let me down”, with the lack of mobile phone signal and data giving him limited options.

“Emergency services are over-stretched already,” he said, “so flagging down a passer-by to call 999 on my behalf would be seen as a waste of public resources but what other options did I have?”

He added that without the single bar of signal, he “had nothing” and felt forced to have “blind faith” he would be rescued.

“I was alone. Vulnerable. I was not able to be that person I normally am, confident and assured, in control,” he said.

Mr Hurley said it was time something was done about the region’s poor connection. “This is 2016 – come on! Let’s raise awareness about the patchy mobile phone signal and Broadband provision in Norfolk, get it up there on a public agenda,” he said.

• Share your experiences of mobile phone coverage with us by emailing lauren.cope@archant.co.uk


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