Published: 09:11, 28 August 2018
| Updated: 20:27, 28 August 2018
Mobile phone networks are being urged to invest more in Canterbury to improve the city’s shaky 4G coverage.
New figures from Ofcom reveal one in three properties in the district does not receive a reliable signal from all of the UK’s ‘big four’ - Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three.
A leading city councillor has called on the networks to recognise Canterbury as a “special case” and find a way of improving their coverage.
But Mobile UK, which represents the ‘big four’, says the city’s signal problems would be costly to solve, as its high proportion of historic buildings and environmentally protected areas make it difficult to obtain planning permission for masts.
Spokesman Gareth Elliott said: “You have got your unique sites of historic beauty, listed buildings, conservation areas and areas of natural beauty.
“That doesn’t mean it’s insurmountable, but it does come with more difficulty in finding suitable sites. It does make it more difficult, and costly.”
Although the city has a network of smaller masts, known as picocells, the signal from these does not always penetrate indoors.
And while coverage improves if you are using your phone outside, almost a quarter of the district is still not covered.
Canterbury councillor Ben Fitter-Harding says the ‘big four’ need to find more money to invest in the city.
“Old buildings, and planning constraints, mean that it’s quite difficult to provide a good level of coverage unless the networks are going to spend significant amounts of money,” he said.
“What we really need is for them to make the investment and for them to understand that Canterbury is a special case.
“It’s vital for pretty much every aspect of how we do business, whether that’s mobile banking, or street traders who need it to take card payments.
“It’s also really bad for tourists and visitors that don’t know all the wi-fi hotspots. It’s just the way that we travel now - people expect to use their phones abroad.
“I make an open call to the mobile networks to get in touch with us, and work with us to come up with ways to improve mobile coverage in the city.
“We would love to be working with them to help bring the incredible benefits that good coverage brings.”
A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says efforts have been made to streamline the planning process for masts.
“We have implemented major changes to planning laws and made it cheaper and easier for the industry to roll out masts,” they said.
“But the mobile companies now need to act fast on these reforms and deliver better coverage across the UK, particularly in rural areas.”
Mobile UK says in Canterbury there has been a “marked uplift” in 4G coverage indoors for the ‘big four’, from 35% in 2017 to 65% in the Ofcom Spring Update.
It adds that 98% of district properties have coverage from at least two of the main networks, which is above the UK average.
Both O2, which has a number of masts in the Canterbury area, and Three, which has added six in the past year, have plans to increase their networks in the coming months.
An O2 spokesman said: “We’re committed to delivering a great network experience to all our customers.
“We currently have good indoor and outdoor 2G, 3G and 4G coverage across Canterbury with plans to increase 4G coverage further in the area.”
Vodafone and EE did not respond to requests for comment.
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More by this authorAnna MacSwan