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Coverage, What Coverage?

November 28, 2017 11:47 AM

Is 100% mobile phone coverage possible across Norfolk? That is what the Liberal Democrats want.

Map showing Vodafone signal coverage in Norfolk, extracted February 2017Currently, the exact percentage is unknown but 3G and 4G coverage in Norfolk and north Suffolk is often terrible or non-existent. Coverage monitoring firm OpenSignal produced a map for consumer group Which? Which showed that:

EE offered the fastest average 4G download speeds of the four networks: EE, O2, Vodafone and Three. While EE customers enjoyed average 4G download speeds of 28Mbps, those on O2 had to put up with an average speed of just 16.2Mbps.

EE also provided the best 4G coverage, with customers able to access it 64.1pc of the time, compared to just 43.7pc of the time for Three customers.

The Eastern Daily Press (EDP) survey of 1,300 readers in October 2016 showed poor coverage had caused 86pc of people problems, with 40pc rating their coverage as one out of 10.

A map of 4G coverage on the website of watchdog Ofcom, compiled with data from phone companies and the regulator, shows around 90% of Norfolk and Waveney should get coverage outdoors. https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/

However, the EDP article of 2 November 2017 questions that and shows have difficult it can be to get a signal. http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/tech/4g-coverage-tested-in-norfolk-1-5256391

Network O2 is required by Government to cover 98% of properties in the UK with 4G coverage indoors.

Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council has now decided to do its own survey and it is paying £50 to £75k to a provider to undertake an independent benchmark assessment of mobile coverage in Norfolk. The survey will consider the user experience associated with making voice calls (by either 2G or 3G) and data access (by either 3G or 4G). This experience should also be measured for the key mobile network providers in Norfolk.

The aim is for the survey to be produced in time for the Council's Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee meeting on 22 January 2018 at 10am at County Hall, Norwich where the council will invite the mobile phone operators to comment on the results and on what progress is being made to improve coverage. This is a public meeting and if you are interested please come along.

From this survey the Council should be in a better positon to consider how to encourage the operators to 100% coverage indoors. The County Council could have a role in this through releasing their own bulidings or land for mobile phone masts.

Liberal Democrats Local Action

At the beginning Photo of Steffan Aquaroneof 2017, County Councillor Steffan Aquarone set up a community project to improve mobile phone signal in Norfolk and looked at a number of solutions including research into small cell transmitters. However an important part of the project were a team of volunteers who went out surveying and located crucial areas lacking coverage.

Liberal Democrat View

Photo of Marie StrongMarie Strong says "Lack of coverage means danger if there is an accident and emergency services cannot be reached; danger if a child or elderly person is lost. It can mean loss of contact with friends, family and particularly young people".

"It is appalling in this digital age that Norfolk has whole areas, not just 'not spots', where you cannot make a phone call. Norfolk deserves better".

The Liberal Democrats will be campaigning to get the networks to commit to 100% mobile phone coverage for all the communities across Norfolk - no ifs, no buts. The Liberal Democrats will be pushing the Conservative administration on the County Council to make sure something actually happens.