BETTER MOBILE RECEPTION COMING THIS WAY SOON?

One of the very few downsides of living and working in our picturesque corner of South West Suffolk is the rotten reception for mobile phones.

Neither my county council blackberry nor my own orange phone receives a decent signal at home or pretty much anywhere in Stansfield.

Mobile_phone_evolution

The great news is that our mobile network locally is set to improve – dramatically. Just before Christmas, the Government announced a new £5 billion project to extend mobile phone coverage in rural areas such as ours.

The announcement came on the morning of a full meeting of the county council when I was speaking as seconder in a debate to approve the council’s campaign for better mobile reception. The news led to a hasty re-write of my speech.

We don’t yet have the full details of the new project. However, I am pleased that this area is included in the current Mobile Infrastructure Project to provide coverage at 11 not spots across Suffolk – areas where there is no effective coverage by any of the 4 mobile providers because it is not economic for them to do without government investment.

The plan is for a new mast somewhere around Assington Green.

The aim of the programme is for the four mobile operators to share masts so we don’t have a proliferation of masts scattered across the countryside and that mast heights should be limited to between 20 and 30 metres to minimise their impact on the scenery.

Arqiva, the company building the masts has the challenge of finding sites that will link into the mobile operators’ networks, are affordable, can hook up easily to a power supply, have access for construction and maintenance and will get planning permission.

An exciting element to all this is that the new masts could provide 4G coverage which in turn might address the other big bugbear of living around here: bad broadband speeds.

There is 4G reception in Endeavour House, the county council headquarters in Ipswich. It is about 38 miles from home to there but sometimes I feel the distance is more like 30 years. For all the advances in technology, my mobile phone isn’t much more effective than the so- called portable phones we had in the Fleet Street newsroom of the Press Association when I worked there in the mid-80s. They were about the size of a breeze block – and, as I recall, weighed about the same too. I reckon with hindsight that us girls needed those horrendous, if fashionable, 80s shoulder pads to be able to lug the phones around!

So fingers crossed that Arqiva finds a suitable site that will work for them and brings us up to speed with 21st century technology.