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Campaign to map London's mobile not-spots could go nationwide

Friday, February 20th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A website mapping London’s mobile not-spots could soon be rolled out to cover the whole of the UK.

The No Bars campaign encourages people to record the areas of the capital where they cannot get a mobile phone signal, then maps the not-spots on its website.

It is run by London MEP Syed Kamall, who became aware of the large number of areas with poor signal while he was out campaigning.

“While you’re out there you need to make a call, send an email, update Facebook or something and you realise how many areas there are that people call black spots or not-spots,” he told Cable.co.uk.

The No Bars map covers London, but has the capability to be rolled out nationally.

“I just want to get over any technical glitches or anything like that and when we’re happy with that, we’ll let anyone fill in the data nationally,” said Mr Kamall.

“And if that works, and it proves to be useful, we’ll look to take it to other EU countries.”

Mr Kamall said colleagues had pointed out how many parts of the UK lack good mobile coverage.

“And then I realised actually how many parts of London there are that you can’t get a decent mobile signal. I thought ‘what can we do about it?’”

Mr Kamall’s solution was to crowdsource the information, “to let people tweet in and tell me where there isn’t a signal”.

He said it was important for the data to come from consumers rather than mobile network operators.

“If you talk to mobile phone companies they will give you a standard answer – they’ll say ‘we’re always improving our service’,” he said.

Problems in central London

“I’m looking at the map and people have been contributing from all over London.

“Some of it is quite interesting because it is so unexpected. Some people have problems coming into Victoria Station, bang in central London – they have problems just as the train comes in.”

Mr Kamall, who has represented London in the European Parliament since 2005, said he was interested to hear people’s stories as well as gathering data.

“What does it mean when you can’t make a business call in a certain area? What does it mean if you can’t get hold of your child late at night? What does it mean if you can’t check on a sick relative?

“People write to me and say ‘when I’m in my house, if I go to my bedroom and hang out the window I can get a signal but I can’t get a signal anywhere else in my house’ and you think ‘we’re in London’.

“We’re in London in 2015 and you’d expect everyone to get a decent signal. For some people it’s not even a broadband signal, it’s a basic signal – an old-fashioned 2G signal.”

He added: “There might be a good reason why you don’t have good coverage in a certain area, but that information is there and then it’s up to the mobile phone operators to respond.”

Mr Kamall plans to meet with mobile network operators when the map is more densely populated and there is "enough data and a big enough sample size”.

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