There’s little 3G on 5,000 miles of Norfolk’s roads

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk rural community council.Photo: Bill Smith

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk rural community council.Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2011

Thousands of miles of rural roads in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire have limited 3G.

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Whether you have broken down on your way to a wedding, need to make an urgent business call or you are well and truly lost many of us use our mobile phones whilst on the road.

However on more than 13pc of the region's roads you could struggle to send a text, a study has revealed.

While it is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving many use hands-free systems or choose to pull over in a lay-by to make a call.

In Norfolk there are 815 miles of road with only partial 2G phone coverage, the basic requirement to send a text or make a call, while in Suffolk there are 607 miles partially covered and 43 with no signal at all, also known as not-spots, according to research carried out by the RAC Foundation.

Areas of partial coverage were considered to be where at least one of the major networks, Vodafone, EE, Three or O2, had a signal but not all of them.

In this situation you would be able to make an emergency call if need be.

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Only 16pc of Norfolk's roads are covered by 3G, which allows mobile phones to access the internet, while it can be used on a quarter of Suffolk's roads.

Those hoping to use the latest 4G technology, which allows users to download videos and images quickly, will find 90pc of the region's roads completely uncovered.

Comparatively Cambridgeshire is better off with 5pc of roads having partial 2G signal coverage.

Norfolk County councillor Marie Strong, who chairs the council's broadband and mobile coverage working group, said she would be writing to networks to encourage them to do more to provide better coverage in the region.

She said: 'Over the past few years more and more people are using mobile phones. You have got small businesses that largely use mobile phones as their only phone.

'Text messages are important for children to communicate, if they are unwell and need to be picked up from school for example.

'There are some places where you are unable to get a signal at all so you can't even make an emergency call. How safe is that?'

Dr Strong has been instrumental in bringing Vodafone's Open Sure Signal scheme to a number of Norfolk parishes including Blakeney, Horning, Loddon and Reepham.

The A149 which runs along the north Norfolk coast was highlighted by researches as having particularly poor coverage.

Jonathan Clemo, chief executive of Community Action Norfolk, said: 'It is not just about ringing a mobile phone.

'Mobile signal can be used for access to health care, crop sensors in digital farming and for smart metres and so on.

'It is also about the quality not just the coverage.

'Often you might have four bars of signal on your phone but the call still drops out or is garbled and sounds like you are speaking underwater.'

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

'Most of us like to think we are always just a mobile phone call away from help but even in a crowded, high-tech country like Britain the reality is somewhat different.

'And it's not just in emergencies that we rely on our mobiles. Increasingly we drivers depend on our smart phones for everything from telling us how to get from A to B, to what the weather is going be, to where the congestion is.

'Yet both 3G and 4G coverage is still patchy in many areas and the chance of downloading data when we need it can often be slim.'

•Does a lack of mobile phone coverage affect your business? Write to doug.faulkner@archant.co.uk