Wales politics

Mobile phone summit on coverage black spots

Mobile phones in a rural landscape
Image caption Residents of rural areas in particular have complained about poor coverage

"Real progress" on boosting mobile phone coverage across Wales can be made, a UK government minister said.

Guto Bebb, from the Wales Office, said it was "unacceptable" for Wales to "lag behind" the rest of the UK.

Phone companies, customers and politicians gathered at the Cardiff offices of regulator Ofcom for a summit to discuss ways of tackling so-called "not spots".

Ofcom Wales director Rhodri Williams said the Welsh landscape was an issue.

The regulator has said that 12% of Wales is considered to be in a "not spot", with no signal at all, compared to the UK figure is 10%.

"Mobile connectivity is a crucial part of modern life and vital for our economic success, health and well-being," said Mr Bebb.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMobile phone coverage problems bad for business, minister says

"It's unacceptable that Wales continues to lag behind the rest of the UK in terms of mobile coverage in an era when businesses, travellers and householders need to be able to rely on robust mobile provision."

The minister said the summit on Thursday would be "the beginning of a process that will address the barriers that face people across the nation".

"I'm hopeful that together we can make some real progress that will benefit businesses, people and communities across Wales," Mr Bebb said.

Mr Williams warned of the challenges, adding: "Wales' terrain makes the task of building digital infrastructure more difficult and more costly than in many other parts of the UK.

"However, the expectations of consumers in Wales are increasing and we all now want to be able to use our mobile devices wherever we are.

"In order for communications to work for everyone, all parties with a role to play should collaborate to do what we can to get the best solution for consumers in Wales."

Charles de Winton, surveyor for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) in Wales, called for changes to the planning system and a pledge of public funding to ensure coverage in areas not seen as commercially viable by the network operators.

"The rural community must not be consigned to the 'second class carriage' in mobile technology, and rural businesses must not suffer discrimination within government-managed infrastructure initiatives," he said.

'Roundtable meeting'

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns called on the Welsh Government in December to ease restrictions on taller mobile phone masts, as had been done in England.

He also said the UK government would consider the idea of letting mobile phone users roam between different networks in areas with poor coverage.

Welsh Government minister for skills and science Julie James also attended the summit.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "Whilst telecommunications is not devolved we are actively looking at how the levers we control can make a difference.

"This includes a roundtable meeting next week with industry representatives to hear about their plans and explore solutions we can achieve together."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites