Rural mobile phone users get ‘raw deal’
Mobile phone users in the rural West are more than four times more likely to have their conversation ended abruptly by a poor signal, than city folk in places like Bristol.
And while mobile phone companies are currently trumpeting new super-fast “4G” connections for smart phones – much of the countryside in the West Country hasn’t even got 3G, while some parts don’t even get a standard mobile phone signal at all.
For the past few months, rural campaigners the Countryside Alliance have been encouraging rural mobile phone users to activate an application on their smart phones which records exactly what kind of signal they get as they move around – and the results have strengthened the calls for the Government to do more to sort out so-called mobile “not-spots”.
Cranborne, on the Dorset-Wiltshire border – became the first to get a series of small, street-level mobile phone boosters, as part of a special pilot scheme instigated by one phone company.
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Cranborne, like many villages in the hilly West, had no mobile phone signal at all, and that caused a range of problems for everyone.
The Countryside Alliance wants more projects like Cranborne’s to be prioritised by the Government, which it accused of concentrating only on urban areas.
The results of the survey revealed that the odds of a call dropping out of signal are four times higher outside of Bristol than in it, while other cities around the country were even worse.
The CA said mobile phone “not-spots” were costing the British economy £1.3 billion. “Our research shows mobile performance, particularly internet access and call rate, gets worse the further you get from major cities,” said CA executive chairman Barney White-Spunner.
“This is perhaps understandable in terms of population density. However the fact that someone with extremely poor service in part of the country can pay the same as someone with excellent service elsewhere clearly shows something needs to be done,” he added.
He said that the Alliance would be focussing on the issue when it tours the party conferences, and would be calling for four specific improvements.
The first is that “national roaming” be made a priority to reduce the number of “not-spots”, the second is that the roll-out of 4G should include rural areas more quickly. He also said the CA was calling for the Mobile Infrastructure Project, which is slowly trying to improve things, to be more closely monitored by the Government, who should hold mobile operators to account.
And finally, planning regulations should be made more easy for phone firms to improve the infrastructure.