The government has announced that Herefordshire is in phase one of its plans to improve mobile black spots in the county.
The £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP), run by Broadband Delivery UK, will see Arqiva, who are delivering the project, erecting new masts across the country which can then be used by network operators Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three to extend mobile coverage into remote areas.
The project will be delivered in five phases, with Herefordshire being in phase one. Work is underway, starting with surveying suitable mast location sites to assess the coverage that a new mast would provide. This data will then be shared with the mobile network operators to see if the sites are viable for ongoing maintenance investment once a mast is in place. If this is agreed the site will receive funding approval and the necessary works started to improve coverage.
Councillor Graham Powell, cabinet member for Herefordshire Council, said: “I am delighted that Herefordshire is going to be one of the areas that will be the first to benefit from the project.
“In an age where mobile phone coverage is taken for granted it can be a real struggle in some rural areas without it. Herefordshire is a very rural county so not only does it affect general day to day life but it can also be vital in an emergency.”
Richard Baker is a First Responder in the west of Herefordshire and is often left with no mobile phone signal which can mean the difference between life and death.
When First Responders are called out they are given an address and postcode of the patient. However, as useful as satellite navigation units are, sometimes they only get you to the correct area and not necessarily the house itself. Without a mobile phone signal they are unable to call control to ask for further directions if they need it, update their status or even alert control if they break down. They are effectively working blind.
Richard said: “I have been called out many times in the early hours of the morning, driving up and down country lanes looking for remote houses that are sometimes hidden up long drives. It’s a nightmare and of course delays me getting to a patient when they vitally need my help.”
The MIP is also being supported by the Fastershire broadband project as it will complement the ongoing roll out of faster broadband in the county.