‘Not-spot’ rural mobile phone scheme ‘not enough’ – CLA

Vodafone UK’s campaign to eradicate mobile phone “not-spots” in the countryside will not solve the communications problems experienced in rural areas, the CLA says.

The communications giant launched its Rural Open Sure Signal programme last month, which aims to bring 3G to areas that have either little or no signal at all.

The trial has led to 12 rural communities having the technology rolled out to their areas and up to 100 communities could eventually benefit.

As well as enabling Vodafone 3G voice services, the signal also provides communities with web access on mobile devices – giving apparent hope to those without landline broadband.

However, the units require the host communities to have a 4Mbps broadband connection – meaning that only areas with good internet access would be in a position to improve their mobile signals through this initiative.

Applications for the Rural Open Sure Signal programme close on 14 October, with the first communities to be connected by the end of the year.

News of the initiative comes as research found that the government was likely to miss its target of superfast broadband access in 95% of the UK by 2017.

The research, carried out by Thinkbroadband.com, warned that the government will miss its target and broadband speeds will vary depending on the region.

The South East and London boroughs are expected to have the best access to superfast broadband, whereas the Shetlands, Herefordshire and Aberdeenshire are expected to suffer most.

The CLA has welcomed the Vodafone initiative to eradicate mobile not-spots, but said it would not solve the communications problems currently experienced in rural areas.

“This scheme, though well intentioned, will not solve the problems currently facing people living and working in the countryside,” said CLA eastern region director Nicola Currie.

With many rural communities struggling to get broadband speeds approaching 2Mbps, those living in broadband and mobile not-spot areas would be unable to access the programme.

“The bottom line is that the government is struggling to achieve its objective of giving everyone in the UK access to a speed of at least 2Mbps,” Ms Currie added.

“The countryside is suffering from lack of access, which means it is deprived of a tool that will boost rural economic growth and promote social inclusion.

“There are other options available to boost mobile coverage, but they are largely micro solutions and only help individual phone users – at their own expense.

“The current mobile phone infrastructure is simply accentuating the rural-urban digital divide and it is down to the government to reduce and, ultimately, resolve this disparity.”

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