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Urban and rural 4G coverage divide exposed by new figures

PUBLISHED: 16:12 16 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:22 16 August 2018

Getting a 4G signal on your smartphone can be patchy in rural Norfolk. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Getting a 4G signal on your smartphone can be patchy in rural Norfolk. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

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Homes and businesses in rural parts of Norfolk are still suffering from a lack of 4G mobile phone coverage, according to latest figures from Ofcom.

More than half of homes do not have full 4G in NOrth, South and West Norfolk. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireMore than half of homes do not have full 4G in NOrth, South and West Norfolk. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Statistics from the communications regulator’s Connected Nations report highlighted areas which, despite improvements from last year, are struggling to deliver comprehensive 4G service across all four of the main mobile networks.

The worst affected district was North Norfolk, where two thirds of homes and businesses (67%) do not have full 4G coverage, closely followed by South Norfolk (64%).

More than half of premises in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk (58%) and under half in Waveney (46%) also suffered.

In contrast 78% of homes and businesses in Norwich (22%) have full 4G coverage.

Getting a 4G signal on your smartphone can be patchy in rural Norfolk. Picture: Getty ImagesGetting a 4G signal on your smartphone can be patchy in rural Norfolk. Picture: Getty Images

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who sponsored a parliamentary early day motion in June highlighting that the 10 worst local authority areas for indoor 4G coverage were in Norfolk, said: “What concerns me is that there is a very urban rural divide here. All customers are expected to pay the same tariff and yet they are getting a very different service.

“City dwellers are just used to constant 4G and everything that it brings, yet people in rural areas, who also often suffer dismal broadband speeds, are left without 4G at all in many cases.

“It is a very real issue and the government needs to do far more to recognise the disadvantage suffered by more remote rural areas. They are not nearly enough to force the pace with mobile operators.

“It has an effect on your ability to sell your home, to run a business and on all the other social interactions that others of us take for granted.”

North Norfolk Norman Lamb MP who has riased the issue of 4G coverage in parliament. Picture: Polly HancockNorth Norfolk Norman Lamb MP who has riased the issue of 4G coverage in parliament. Picture: Polly Hancock

Early this year Norfolk County Council launched a mobile phone coverage map after a survey of 2G, 3G and 4G found only 82% of phone calls were successful.

Ofcom’s report also measures coverage by geographical area, for someone using their phone outside.

The figures show that 60% of the total area of Waveney is covered by all four 4G networks, with North Norfolk at 60%, South Norfolk at 71%, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk at 83%, while in Norwich coverage is at more than 90%.

The Government target is 95% geographic coverage across the UK from at least one network by 2022.

Poor 4G coverage in rural towns and villages has been highlighted in figures from Ofcom. Picture: Lauren Hurley/PA WirePoor 4G coverage in rural towns and villages has been highlighted in figures from Ofcom. Picture: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We agree mobile coverage must improve, particularly in rural communities, and we’re working with the Government and the industry to support this.

“We want mobile companies to extend their networks as a priority, and we’ve announced plans to make them increase coverage for rural areas as we release more airwaves next year.”

No Signal? Local 4G coverage

Operators manager Cory Minns with manager Laila France outside Bungay Fisher Theatre which struggles for 4G coverage. Picture: Nick ButcherOperators manager Cory Minns with manager Laila France outside Bungay Fisher Theatre which struggles for 4G coverage. Picture: Nick Butcher

• North Norfolk

67% of premises did not have reliable 4G coverage from all four mobile phone networks. Last year, that figure was 86%.

• South Norfolk

64% of homes and businesses did not have reliable 4G coverage. Last year, it was 89%.

• King’s Lynn & West Norfolk

58% of premises did not have reliable 4G coverage from all four mobile phone networks. Last year, it was 77%.

• Waveney & Lowestoft

46% of premises did not have reliable 4G coverage. Last year, it was 56%.

• Norwich

22% of homes and businesses do not have full 4G coverage. Last year, that it 42%.

Figures: Ofcom

4G Theatre Intervals

Theatregoers in Bungay have to go outside the building and stand in the middle of the road to get a signal.

Operations manager Cory Minns said the lack of 4G posed issues running the busy Fisher Theatre, which is in a black spot despite being in the centre of town.

“4G what’s that?” he quipped. “It’s a running joke in Bungay that if you want to get a signal you have to go walking down the road.

“We have loads of people trying to get hold of us and we end up having to tell them to use our box office phone number. It does pose a problem.

“Sometimes you are lucky other times you can’t. It does vary whether you are inside or out. Maybe it is because it is an old building. It also varies according to the network. I know that people struggle on 3.”

View Norfolk mobile coverage maps

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