Vodafone blames trees after Suffolk customers left without mobile signal
A business owner has hit out at Vodafone after being without mobile signal for several weeks.
John Alborough, who lives and works on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, said it is not the first time his local mobile mast has gone down and it always seems to take weeks for it to be fixed.
But Vodafone said the problem was due to tall trees blocking the mast's signal and put the delay down to having to wait for the landowner's permission to trim the trees.
The situation comes just a week after Vodafone's network boss blamed out-of-date planning laws for holding up mobile operators' efforts to improve coverage for their customers.
Petek Ergul, Vodafone UK’s head of networks, described masts as "a real problem in the industry right now".
"Now that summer is here and the trees have grown and have their leaves again, it causes real issues in some parts of the network because the masts aren’t high enough, and they’re being blocked out by the trees," she said.
Mr Alborough, from the village of Syleham, near Diss, spoke to Cable.co.uk after completely losing signal on his mobile phone, making calls impossible and texts unreliable.
The businessman, who runs a number of community websites for vets and veterinary nurses, said he reported the mast problem to Vodafone and last week received an automated text message saying engineers were working on the fault and he would be updated.
Several days later, nothing had happened, leaving him frustrated at the length of time it was taking to sort out a mast problem.
“We are not sure exactly when the signal dropped but we think it is about four weeks ago,” he told Cable.co.uk.
“What really annoys me is the length of time that it takes to get these things done.
“They must have software which shows a signal has gone down without the need to report it.
“And why, when it’s reported, does it take so long?”
He said the area west of the mast is a not-spot anyway, meaning the broken mast is extending a “blank area” even further.
The issue builds on frustrations at the lack of coverage in the area, he said, with rural areas left “disadvantaged” when they are stuck on 2G while more urban areas get 3G and 4G.
“We are the laughing stock of Europe, people I talk to in Ireland, people I talk to in Europe, they don’t understand why we have this indifferent signal.
“I have travelled literally in the jungles of North Vietnam and the Atacama desert and in both those places had a phone signal the whole time.
“And here we are in North Suffolk and we at best have an indifferent signal anyway and now no signal.”
Mr Alborough said as soon as his and his wife’s Vodafone contracts expire, they plan to seek an alternative supplier.
“Vodafone are shoddy in the way they do nothing when a complaint arises and clearly couldn’t care less about rural coverage.”
A Vodafone spokeswoman said: “We’re sorry some of our customers are experiencing problems with coverage in the area.
“Our engineers have established that tall trees are blocking the signal from one of our masts.
“We are awaiting the landowner’s permission to trim the trees and continue to do everything we can to get service back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Ms Ergul's comments last week, made in a Vodafone blog post, followed the publication of proposals by the government to relax planning rules allowing taller masts.
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