July 31 2014 Latest news:
Friday, May 23, 2014
Poor mobile phone coverage is still blighting many towns and villages in Suffolk despite assurances from operators last year that they would tackle the issue.
Business and personal phone users have become increasingly frustrated by mobile “not-spots” in the county - particularly east Suffolk, and even in well-populated areas.
But eight months after we launched the Lets Get Connected campaign to raise awareness of the issue - which has secured the support of thousands of readers - the problems remain.
And as the height of the summer season approaches for the Suffolk tourist industry, the region’s tourist boss warned yesterday that visits could be soured by the lack of coverage.
Keith Brown, from Visit East Anglia, did not believe poor coverage would necessarily be a “deal breaker” – but was worried visitors could be frustrated by being out of touch.
He said: “The thing is, most people won’t realise there’s a problem with mobile coverage until they arrive in the area and find they get no signal.
“These days it’s very important to be connected – people use their smart phones or other devices to check on what to visit or to get other information.”
He said East Anglia was not unique in this – other tourist areas in the country suffered similar problems with mobile coverage.
However despite claims of investment in the network, mobile phone users say there has been no discernible improvement in reception since last summer.
Annette Mason-Gordon of Best of Suffolk – which is based at Badingham and rents holiday homes across the area – said there had been no improvement in mobile signals on the heritage coast since last September, which was a frustration for many visitors.
She said: “It’s all right for local people because they know which network provides a reasonable service, but it is not good for visitors who come here and expect to be able to stay in touch.”
We heard the same story from other people who live in or visit the area regularly.”
The area is expecting an even bigger influx of visitors this year, encouraged by the arrival of the BBC Springwatch team at the Minsmere nature reserve.
The country’s largest mobile operator Vodafone suffers from a number of blackspots along the coastal strip from Southwold to Bawdsey.
A spokeswoman said the company was continuing to invest in its network – but there were problems in bringing signals to rural areas.
She said: “There have been objections to mobile phone masts in some areas, and it is quite a challenge to get signals to some areas without interfering with other signals.”
The company’s network was continuing to be enhanced, and it hoped to improve coverage in rural areas at some point, she added.
One issue that is due to improve over the next few months is tackling the total not-spots in the county where no mobile signals at all exist.
The government is helping to fund new masts for these areas, and all have to be commissioned by the end of this year.
These not-spots are: Shottisham and Sudbourne in Suffolk Coastal; Holbrook in Babergh; Wordwell, Barningham, Hartest, and Highwell Green in West Suffolk as well as the route of the A143 road from Great Yarmouth to Haverhill.
Mobile companies are continuing to roll out 4G networks in large towns and cities – and EE (the network formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile) is introducing a 4G device that can turn a car into a mobile wi-fi hotspot, but that is cold comfort to those living in, or visiting, rural areas who continue to find they have no 3G, or even 2G, signal.
To support our campaign for better mobile phone coverage, visit www.eadt.co.uk/news/campaigns/lets-get-connected