Norfolk County Council ponders mobile phone coverage study

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Norfolk County Council chiefs have outlined plans to spend tens of thousands of pounds on a new study of mobile phone coverage in the county.

Officials admit the quality of mobile signal has fallen behind efforts to improve broadband connections in the county.

But they say the survey, which a report has suggested could cost at least £50,000 to complete, will give them the information they need to help secure improvements where they are needed most.

The idea is due to be considered at a meeting of the authority’s digital innovation and efficiency committee next Wednesday, November 8.

Its chairman, Tom Garrod, said: “I think this is a fantastic proposal and exactly the kind of thing I want this committee and the council to be leading the way on.

“We’ve seen a lot of progress with broadband access in the county as a result of our Better Broadband for Norfolk programme but progress on mobile coverage has sadly lagged behind.

“This survey will be a crucial start in improving mobile phone coverage across the county and networks.

“It would arm us with the evidence we need to not only lobby for improvements but also to suggest practical solutions to telecoms companies and bring about real change.

“I’m excited about the potential of this idea. If the committee agrees with me we’ll move quickly and look to publish the results in the new year.”

The report said the study would be expected, as a minimum, to assess coverage levels in Lynn, as well as the other major urban centres of Norwich and Yarmouth, along with the county’s A and B roads, rail lines and major tourist areas.

Officials say the findings could help the authority to work with telecoms providers to find suitable sites for new infrastructure, including the possibility of the council charging companies for access to its own assets for equipment to be installed.

The report said market testing indicated the study would cost between £50,000 and £75,000, which would come from existing budgets.

But it added: “It is believed that the expenditure will be more than recovered through future rental of council assets by mobile network operators seeking to extend their coverage.”