Suffolk: Poor 3G coverage is hitting businesses and deterring trade
POOR internet availability for mobile phones is hitting businesses and deterring investors from moving to Suffolk, it has been claimed.
Figures from Ofcom reveal Suffolk is among the worst areas in the country for third generation (3G) services, with less than a quarter of the county able to get a connection.
It comes as Orange and T-Mobile owner Everything Everywhere – recently renamed EE – unveiled plans this month to launch the UK’s first super-fast fourth generation (4G) products.
But it is unlikely such coverage, which promises to improve internet speeds, will be extended to Suffolk until 2014, with other mobile operators given until 2017.
Chris Soule, chairman of Suffolk Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It’s a huge problem – lots of businesses are using tablets and smartphones simply because they make mobile offices so much easier.
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“But if you can’t get a 3G connection it’s an absolute nightmare.
“They are disrupting business in Suffolk. If I’m going from Eye across county towards Framlingham and from there to the coast there are huge blackspots.
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“If you’re with a customer and you want to download an example of product you can’t do it.
“It’s holding back investment in Suffolk, you might as well stay in Essex. But we want businesses to come to Suffolk.”
Wil Gibson, of rural charity Suffolk ACRE, said: “If you speak to the mobile companies they will say they have good coverage but people are saying the phone coverage is very patchy. That is the same for internet connections and 3G services.
“If you’re going to use that for your broadband connections that’s going to create issues. It’s something that needs addressing alongside the development of the broadband proposal for Suffolk. If you’re going to be comparing the phone providers with a broadband provider you have to be sure the technology will give you that coverage and with the phone system as it is at the moment that’s not always the case.”
A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “The county council recognises that 3G coverage in Suffolk is not sufficient to meet the needs of residents who demand more on the move. From our engagement with local parish and community groups, we know that this is a particular issue in the rural areas of the county, where much of the countryside has no indoor mobile phone coverage at all, let alone 3G coverage.”
A spokesman for EE said: “EE is investing millions of pounds over the next three years so that we can deliver on our ambition to provide the UK’s most reliable, biggest and best mobile network. On completion of this work, our network will offer an improved 2G and 3G service, as well as being 4G-ready.”
Mobile operators O2 and Vodafone were asked to comment but failed to respond.
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