‘We’ll bring you better mobile phone coverage in Norfolk and Suffolk’, pledge providers

Steve Hurley, who is profoundly deaf, was left stranded when his car broke down, and he had no mobil

Steve Hurley, who is profoundly deaf, was left stranded when his car broke down, and he had no mobile phone signal to get assistance. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Mobile phone companies today pledged to improve coverage in the region, after a survey by this newspaper showed how unhappy customers in East Anglia are with their signal.

More than 86pc of people said bad mobile phone reception had caused them problems in the past.Almost three-quarters of respondents gave their 4G coverage the lowest possible score of one out of 10.

We sent our survey's findings to Ofcom, which regulates the communications industry. They said that mobile phone providers had committed to covering 90pc of the UK by the end of 2017 with enough signal for a phone call.

But an Ofcom report last year found just 31pc of rural areas have phone coverage indoors. Ofcom also said they had set 'tough rules' to make sure that 98pc of homes and businesses in the country have 4G coverage by the end of next year.

Those 'tough rules' only apply to 02, which has an obligation in its licence to meet that target.


But along with O2, Vodafone is also upgrading and building new masts across to increase 4G coverage.

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An O2 spokesman said Dereham now has good 4G as a mast was upgraded a couple of weeks ago, and work starts in Thetford in November to bring 4G to the town.

Around 100 masts in Norfolk and Suffolk are currently being upgraded or built which should mean that around 90pc of the population gets 4G by late next year.

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An EE spokesperson said they also had plans for better coverage in Norfolk and Suffolk.

'Currently we have 96pc population coverage in the East of England, and we're on track to reach 99.9pc of the population there by the end of 2017

'But we're not satisfied with that - we think people should have coverage everywhere, not just where they live. This is why we're the only mobile network in the UK to commit to covering 95pc of the UK's geography. We have big plans for Norfolk and Suffolk as a part of that, and we're working hard to make sure people are always connected.'

Clarke Willis, chief executive of Anglia Farmers, said he was hopeful Vodafone and O2 would reach their ambition in 2017.

'There are currently plans in place for more 4G coverage across the country, but there will still be areas that will not be reached,' he said.

An Ofcom spokesperson added: 'We understand how frustrating poor mobile coverage can be, and we welcome hearing readers' experiences, which we will examine in detail.'

Our letter to Ofcom

Dear Ofcom,

In 2013 the Eastern Daily Press launched a campaign called 'Let's Get Connected' to show mobile phone providers how bad signal was in parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and the Fens.

Our aim was to put pressure on phone providers to take steps to improve signal and coverage – and end the scandal of people paying for contracts but not receiving an adequate service.

Hundreds of readers completed our online petition, our region's MPs got behind the campaign, as did the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Norfolk County Council, the Country Land and Business Association and the National Farmers Union.

But coverage has not improved.

Three years on we are in the same situation.

Faster connections through 4G have arrived in more places, but despite Government funding, a simple mobile phone signal is a dream for large parts of the region.

That is why we asked our readers in September to start filling in our online survey and rate the coverage where they live.

We've had almost 1,400 responses and I attach the results for you so Ofcom can see how poor a service people living in East Anglia get from their mobile phone providers.

We understand you don't respond to individual complaints, but as the regulator of the communications industry, we thought you may be able to raise this issue if you had 1,400 cases.

If customers were paying £40 a month in other industries for services they didn't receive we'd expect the regulator to take some sort of action.

For example, should providers be fined if customers do not receive sufficient phone signal?

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