Mobile phone ‘not spots’

Better mobile phone coverage across West Berkshire continues to be one of my important local campaigns. I have been helping constituents in places like Upper Woolhampton with this issue and am aware of this problem in Aldermaston, Hermitage, Yattendon, Ashampstead and Curridge as well. I have been working closely with Vodafone to try and improve mobile connection in these areas and I’m pleased to report that a site for a new 4G mast has now been agreed for Upper Woolhampton and I understand that the planning application has now been submitted. It will take a few months for the necessary permissions to be obtained but this will, finally, provide coverage for the three schools and all the people living in that area.

In response to my campaign, Vodafone’s Head of Networks, Kye Prigg, has responded with the following letter, published in the Newbury Weekly News:

I would like to respond on behalf of Vodafone to the letters recently published regarding our coverage in Aldermaston, Curridge and Hermitage.

First, we’re very sorry for any customer service concerns raised by your readers. Our top priority is on continually improving the level of service to our customers and we clearly have not stepped up to the mark on this occasion.  I have asked my colleagues in our customer service team to look into these as a matter of urgency.

With regards to mobile coverage, I understand how frustrating it is for residents who may struggle with receiving a signal in Aldermaston, Curridge and Hermitage. I’m committed to improving our service in and around the surrounding area and plans are underway to make sure it happens.  We have a new mast in development with aim of having it fully operational by this autumn.  Bringing coverage to some areas can be a long process with many key factors out of our control.  With regards to Curridge and Hermitage, we are waiting for BT Openreach to install new optical fibre connections to and from the mast so it can connect to the wider the network.  I hope this work will be completed soon. I will keep you updated. In Aldermaston, we are looking to see how we can improve existing coverage and are in discussion with West Berkshire Council with regards to finding suitable land for an additional mast.

I will continue to put pressure on Vodafone and I have written to other mobile phone providers as well. You can read the response to my letter to EE here. All providers are keen to eliminate ‘not spots’ and there are solutions out there. We all rely on our phones and to have areas of West Berkshire where you still cannot get a signal is unacceptable in this day and age. If we are to achieve 100% coverage across the constituency, I need to hear from people who are struggling with this in order to be able to help so please email me at richard@richardbenyon.com if you want to report a ‘not spot’.

I was also contacted by the Newbury BID about poor coverage being experienced by some businesses in Newbury town centre and I am delighted to report that Vodafone has now come back to me saying that it is in the process of upgrading the Newbury area in general with additional capacity that will effectively double the data capacity across the whole of the town and triple capacity in the town centre.