Suffolk: Mobile phone mast sharing bid to solve signal blackspots
PUBLISHED: 12:32 23 June 2014
Frustrating mobile phone blackspots across Suffolk could be wiped out if moves succeed to force operators to share their masts.
Government ministers are understood to be discussing the introduction of “national roaming” – where phones switch from one operator to another when service is not available through a particular provider – across the UK to improve service in poor signal areas.
The East Anglian Daily Times launched its Let’s Get Connected campaign last year after complaints from towns and villages across the county blighted by non-existent signal coverage from some major networks.
Last night the moves to get companies to share masts were welcomed by politicians and business leaders, who said it would be good for residents and visitors, the economy and safety.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “I think mast sharing is absolutely the right thing to do. There are mobile blackspots all around rural Suffolk – I have several in my constituency – and while a great deal has been done over the years to improve the service, some of the blackspots stubbornly remain.
“There have been attempts to voluntary encourage phone companies to share masts but this doesn’t appear to have been particularly successful, so now we have to look at other initiatives.
“Without phone signal coverage you are at a disadvantage from the social aspect and the business side and in an emergency there could be a fairly serious risk.”
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey welcomed the “new momentum” on improving mobile phone coverage.
She said: “I know that the idea of national roaming has been investigated previously but I am pleased that the new secretary of state appears to have found a way forward with the mobile companies which will gradually help people and business in Suffolk Coastal.”
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter said mobile phones were no longer an optional extra but an essential part of everyday life for individuals and businesses and the mobile network needed to be fit for purpose.
He said: “Sharing masts would be a very welcome move and bring big benefits to a lot of local people and a huge boost to the tourism and the local economy, bringing more jobs and making it easier for everyone to live their lives.”
Rob Mabey, chairman of the Aldeburgh Business Association, said it would be a big bonus – especially for visitors to the area – if mobile network sharing was achieved.
He said: “I think most people who live here know which networks have coverage and which don’t. But visitors find it very difficult to arrive and discover there is no signal, and we have had a few problems.
“I think though there could be some problems commercially with networks sharing – companies have gone to a lot of trouble to get their masts in place to gain an advantage over their rivals and now they will be asked to give up that advantage.”
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “The Government has made clear it wants to ensure the UK has world-class mobile phone coverage as part of our investment in infrastructure for the long term economic plan.
“We are investing up to £150 million to improve mobile coverage in areas where there is currently no coverage from any of the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
“Of course we want to look at what more can be done in areas with poor coverage.”