Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Vodafone blasted over response to falcon nest

Mobile phone without signal
Image caption Mobile phone users have had poor reception since early April

Mobile phone customers have complained about service not being resumed in parts of Southampton after a peregrine falcon nested by a faulty transmitter.

Vodafone engineers discovered a female bird nesting when they tried to repair the mast on 9 April.

Under wildlife legislation, the company is now not allowed to access the site and said it was still exploring sites for an alternative mast.

Vodafone customer Margate Noakes said a lack of signal was a "real nuisance".

She said she would consider changing provider if the signal was not restored.

Another customer, Dyane Fletcher, said a lot of people in the area affected had been "hit hard" by the lack of signal.

"Calls drop out. You can't check credit. Texts are not getting through - this has caused no end of problems," she said.

She said she was having to use pay-as-you-go sim cards in old handsets in order to stay in touch with her ex-husband to arrange access for her children.

'Case-by-case compensation'

A Vodafone spokeswoman apologised to customers. She said the case was "very unusual" and no solution had yet been found to providing the same coverage from an alternative transmitter site.

She added that while they could not ever guarantee mobile signals 24 hours a day, compensation for a lack of service would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Peregrine falcons are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The nest's location cannot be revealed.

If it turns out the female has laid eggs, engineers would not be able to access the mast until any chicks had fledged, which could be into July.

It is not yet known if the bird was the cause of the original fault.

There are about 1,400 breeding pairs of the birds in the UK. They normally favour rocky cliff tops to make their nests.

An RSPB spokesman said urban nesting in nooks and crannies of churches or office blocks was an increasing phenomena, possibly caused by birds following food sources like city pigeons.

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