Anger as mast is turned off
A MOBILE phone network has apologised after users were cut off for almost two months.
Residents in the rural villages of Sutton, Wincle, Swythamley, North Rode and Rushton Spencer have been either totally without a mobile phone signal or had a vastly reduced coverage since June.
It followed mobile net- work provider EE’s decision to switch off one of its masts.
Furious customers complained and a group – spearheaded by councillor Hilda Gaddum – demanded action.
Now EE claims to have rectified the problem for most users and is working towards improving overall coverage.
One of those affected was Christine Moores from Rushton Spencer.
She said: “The loss of signal has caused great problems for EE customers and health and safety issues are at the forefront of the situation.
“I have had reports from first responders and doctors that it is of great concern to them as they cannot contact hospitals.
“Also, lone workers have contacted me saying that due to the type of agricultural work they do, often in fields, woods with farm machinery, they feel vulnerable that they have no way of contacting ‘the outside world’ should they find themselves in difficulty.” John Carwardine, community affairs manager for EE, said the problem arose following a review of masts when companies T-Mobile and Orange joined forces to become EE.
He said: “Our surveys and research suggested that we could maintain the same level of capacity with one mast, rather than two, so we switched one off.
“For some reason this didn’t happen and it couldn’t handle the same amount of traffic.
“We are aware that customers in the area have been experiencing issues with the quality of service over the past weeks, and we have worked closely with the community and Coun Hilda Gaddum to identify the specific places affected.
“Our engineers have been working as a matter of priority to try to restore the signal to its optimum level, and customers should have already seen improvements.
“We apologise to all those who have been affected for the inconvenience experienced.”
Coun Hilda Gaddum said she hope the situation was resolved fully for all areas soon.
She said: “People were very very worried that they had no signal in some very rural areas.
“The hardest thing was that people were calling EE and being given different reasons for there being no signal.
“It took quite a lot to get to the bottom of the problem but once we had the right person, EE has been extremely helpful.
“I am relieved the company listened to the concerns of the people.
“I understand from talking to people that the situation has not been fully resolved as there are still issues in Wincle.
“I hope EE stands by their claim that it will continue to work with us to get the signal back up and running properly.”
●● Coun Hilda Gaddum and Christine Moores