Poor mobile coverage 'hitting South East firms'

Image caption Mobile phone coverage on trains was highlighted as an issue affecting businesses

Companies in the South East are suffering because of poor or no mobile phone coverage, a business organisation has warned.

The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SE LEP) survey found "cold spots" in East Sussex, Kent and Essex.

The Mobile Operators Association said it was up to local authorities to give planning permission for phone aerials.

"Businesses frequently quoted losses of around £10,000 or more a year," an SE LEP spokesman said.

Lost sales, damaged reputation and missed opportunities to create new jobs were cited as results of poor coverage.

The areas most affected included around Crowborough, Polegate, Lewes and Heathfield in East Sussex and Braintree, Westcliff-on- Sea and Shoeburyness in Essex.

The London to Chelmsford railway line was also listed as having poor reception.

In Kent, Mereworth and East Malling were highlighted, together with an area between Folkestone and Canterbury. The Sittingbourne and Isle of Sheppey and Dover to Deal coasts were also identified as having bad reception.

'Profound impact'

John Spence, chairman of SE LEP, said: "Our research clearly shows that poor or no mobile phone coverage is more than just a mild frustration for businesses.

"It is having a profound impact on their ability to fulfil their potential and further stimulate the local and national economies through creating new jobs."

A spokeswoman for the Mobile Operators Association said: "It is more expensive to build and maintain base stations in rural areas; connecting sites to the telephone network and electricity supply costs more than in urban areas.

"Without a network of sites there is no signal for customers so local authorities have a vital role to play in approving appropriate planning applications from mobile operators and making their own land available to build on."

The SE LEP called for evidence of poor reception and received replies from 405 businesses.

More than 80% said they had suffered from disruption due to mobile phone "cold spots".

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