Suffolk: Coming here on holiday? Go to church for a mobile signal

Let's get connected

Let's get connected - Credit: Archant

A year after we launched the Let’s Get Connected campaign to improve mobile phone coverage in Suffolk, rural parts of the county are still beyond the reach of signals for many networks.

And one major holiday company now gives details of phone coverage to guests who come to stay in its cottages – including telling them to go to the churchyard at the top of the hill in Aldeburgh to try to get a signal.

Naomi Tarry runs Best of Suffolk, renting holiday cottages in the county, and is a former chair of Aldeburgh Business Association.

She said she had seen no change in the mobile coverage in east Suffolk since we highlighted the problem with the start of our campaign a year ago.

The coastal strip of Suffolk, from Felixstowe Ferry to Southwold, has almost non-existant mobile coverage from Vodafone and a patchy service from Three.

People who live in the area know it is better to have a mobile with O2 or EE(the network which includes Orange, T-Mobile and Virgin phones), but visitors on the other networks find themselves cut off when they visit the area.

Mrs Tarry said: “We have to tell people where they can get a signal when they rent our cottages. Sometimes you can get a signal upstairs not downstairs, sometimes we have to tell them to go up the hill!

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“There has been no improvement over the last year and it is very inconvenient. People who come away expect to be able to stay in touch with their families or businesses. It is not good enough.”

Her main office is in Badingham near Framlingham and also has a base in Aldeburgh – and is with EE herself.

“You still find that the signal comes and goes as you go around the area. And it can be very difficult when we want to get hold of one of the handymen we use to do a job for us.”

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said the amount the company was investing in new phone masts had increased from £1 million to £2.5 million a day over the last year.

However she was not able to say when the company would extend its coverage to east Suffolk.

It had introduced a competition to find 100 small communities across the country to get improved coverage, and said areas in Suffolk could apply for that.

Suffolk council leader Mark Bee, who is also responsible for economic development, said improving communications was vital for the future prosperity of the rural parts of the county.

He said: “I see the improvement in broadband and mobile phone coverage as crucial – although we don’t have the same leverage with the phone issue as we do with broadband.

“It is frustrating when you keep losing a signal as you go around the county. Businesses – and individuals – expect to be able to stay in touch.”

He said the county wanted to work with mobile phone companies and landowners to identify sites for new masts to improve coverage – persuading landowners of the benefits of masts so the costs were not too high for the companies was crucial.

The county has also been working with the government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport to eradicate a small number of total “not spots” which are not served by any mobile operator.

And the bid to improve mobile coverage also has the backing of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

Chris Starkie, managing director of the LEP said: “We recognise the importance of improving the mobile phone signal across Norfolk and Suffolk for businesses and residents alike.

“The problem is particularly acute in coastal areas and we are committed to work with our local authority colleagues and business groups to lobby Government and the mobile phone networks to invest more to deliver the service our area deserves.”

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