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Norfolk’s phone signal ‘not-spots’ will soon be thing of the past, says Vodafone boss

PUBLISHED: 16:35 23 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:35 23 November 2017

Attempts to put in a phone mast in Blakeney at Friary Farm Caravan Park were unsuccessful because of objections about it spoiling the beauty spot. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Attempts to put in a phone mast in Blakeney at Friary Farm Caravan Park were unsuccessful because of objections about it spoiling the beauty spot. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2015

Phone users could be streaming video and using their favourite apps in even the worst 4G ‘not-spots’ in Norfolk and Suffolk in 18 months time, according to Vodafone.

Rob Matthews, senior manager of mobile phone networks at Vodafone. Photo: ArchantRob Matthews, senior manager of mobile phone networks at Vodafone. Photo: Archant

Customers with 4G on their mobile phones get faster internet connections meaning they can make video calls, work remotely or shop on the go.

But Norfolk and Suffolk have long been hampered by poor phone coverage meaning even built up areas struggle to get a good enough connection for 4G.

An investigation by this newspaper at the start of November found many areas which phone companies and regulator Ofcom claim have coverage do not get a signal. The worst places for 4G coverage in our survey included swathes of north Norfolk around Sheringham and Holt as well south Norfolk around Loddon and Diss.

It means phone customers are paying networks hundreds of pounds a year for a service they do not receive.

But senior manager of mobile phone networks at Vodafone, Dr Rob Matthews, said today that 98pc of Norfolk’s population should have 4G coverage outdoors within the next 18 months. That does not include people using their phones to get 4G indoors.

But Dr Matthews said for that to happen landowners and customers would need to get behind planning applications for new transmitters and masts.

He said phone companies faced challenges finding the land for masts and sometimes struggled to get planning permission.

“We want people to come and help us,” he said. “They need to support planning applications. Ultimately that support can tip a planning application from unacceptable to acceptable. We want to put infrastructure where people want to use it.”

In north Norfolk, a notorious phone signal ‘not-spot’, an application for a mast was withdrawn on Cley Road in Blakeney in 2015 because of opposition.

It would have brought better signal to Vodafone, O2, Three and EE customers but was in an area of natural beauty.

Instead phone companies are now looking to put smaller transmitters in church towers in places like Blakeney, Dr Matthews said.

Telefonica/O2 was given permission in June this year to build at mast at Holt rugby club which should address problems there for Vodafone customers too as the two companies share masts.

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