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Welsh Assembly member: Rural mobile coverage has got worse

Monday, September 28th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

A Welsh politician has called for mobile operators to make more of an effort to tackle coverage issues in Mid Wales.

Russell George, Welsh Assembly Member for Mid Wales, wants to bring all network operators to the region to discuss ways that coverage can be improved after a spate of complaints from residents.

Mr George, who also chairs the National Assembly's cross party group on digital communications, plans to hold a series of meetings with operators this autumn.

He said: “I think it's important to bring all the network operators to Mid Wales so that they can hear directly from community leaders about the day-to-day difficulties which residents experience when trying to make a simple phone call or send a text message.

“In recent years, we have heard a lot about the launch of new 4G services and new network sharing agreements between the operators, which are supposed to have improved coverage and speeds. But the reality in some rural areas is that mobile coverage has actually got worse.”

He said frustrated residents from both urban and rural areas in his constituency had contacted him, asking him to press for an improvement in coverage.

Mr George said that in his view, mandatory roaming and compulsory sharing of mobile infrastructure are the “two most practical solutions” to resolve the issue.

“However, in addition to these measures, I will also be looking to Ofcom and government to remove any barriers which are preventing the development of mobile infrastructure in Mid Wales,” he added.

The issue of mobile coverage in Wales was raised earlier this month when Welsh MP Hywel Williams launched a survey to collect his Arfon constituents’ views on the issue so he could present them to operators.

'Weak or unreliable'

Mr Williams (Plaid Cymru – Arfon) launched an online survey asking the people of his north Wales constituency for feedback on the quality of mobile networks and the availability of 3G and 4G in the area.

He said: “It’s clear some areas of Arfon face weak or unreliable mobile signal service, particularly in rural parts of the constituency.

“I’m hoping the feedback will help our case for an improved service.

“I aim to submit a strong representation to these companies, urging them to give a firm commitment to upgrading Arfon to the same standard as the rest of the county.”

The UK’s four mobile network operators have agreed to provide voice and text coverage across 90% of the country by the end of 2017.

The deal with the government saw EE, O2, Three and Vodafone agree to invest £5bn to improve mobile coverage.

It is hoped to cut the number of ‘not-spots’ – areas with no mobile coverage – by two thirds and the number of ‘partial not-spots’ – areas not served by all four networks – by half.

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