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More than half of West Norfolk still without 4G phone coverage, says new report

More needs to be done to improve 4G phone coverage in West Norfolk, say campaigners
More needs to be done to improve 4G phone coverage in West Norfolk, say campaigners

More than half of West Norfolk’s homes and businesses still do not have full 4G coverage, even after significant improvements in the past year, new figures show.

Rural affairs campaigners have called for legally binding targets to improve coverage further, claiming the main mobile phone companies are making areas like this a “digital wilderness.”

But the main operators say they are tackling the issue and need the support of landowners to make further progress.

Figures published by the communications regulator Ofcom show that, in January this year, 58 per cent did not have reliable 4G coverage from all four major mobile phone networks.

Although that figure is significantly below the 77 per cent recorded in 2017, campaigners say not enough is being done to address connection problems.

The County Land and Business Association (CLA) is calling on the government to introduce legally binding targets in a bid to force the mobile phone networks to extend 4G coverage.

It said that mobile phone operators were letting rural areas become “a digital wilderness” and greater efforts were needed to ensure comprehensive and reliable 4G coverage from all four major mobile networks - EE, 3, Virgin and O2.

The CLA's senior economic adviser, Dr Charles Trotman, said: “State of the art coverage will improve productivity of businesses and make them far more profitable.”

“Our objective is universal coverage. But everything is predicated on the operators themselves to put the infrastructure in place.

“We need to incentivise all operators to branch out, to give consumers more market choice and avoid localised monopolies.”

But Mobile UK, the body which represents the network companies, said: “Huge improvements have been made to mobile coverage in recent years, as a result of the £2 billion invested each year by the industry.

“For this to continue, we need the active co-operation of landowners to provide operators with suitable, cost-effective sites.”

The government says it wants 95 per cent of the country to have 4G connections by 2022.

It claims that the installation of new masts is now cheaper and easier than it once was, partly through changes to planning laws.

And they maintain that the responsibility should be on the phone companies to “act fast on these reforms and deliver better coverage across the UK, particularly in rural areas.”

The Ofcom report also measures coverage by geographical area, for someone using their phone outside.

It suggests that 83 per cent of the total area of West Norfolk is covered by all four 4G networks.

Ofcom said: “We agree mobile coverage must improve, particularly in rural communities, and we’re working with the Government and the industry to support this.

“We want mobile companies to extend their networks as a priority, and we’ve announced plans to make them increase coverage for rural areas as we release more airwaves next year.”

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