Rural 'not-spots' hit mobile phone use in Devon and Cornwall
The blight of poor mobile phone reception has been highlighted by research that reveals the true extent of signal "not-spots" in the Westcountry.
Research by the Countryside Alliance found people living in rural counties such as Devon and Cornwall are almost five times more likely than those in big cities to suffer failed calls on their mobiles.
Such is the scale of the problem that residents are being asked to gather evidence to support growing pressure to improve the patchy service.
Politicians in the region have rallied in support of the campaign for better reception, but warn of potential conflicts with those opposed to mobile phone masts.
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Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for West Cornwall, warned of "tensions" between those calling for improved coverage and others who do not want the masts "littering" the countryside.
"When I recently visited parts of Africa such as hospitals in Kenya and Malawi, the mobile reception was fairly good," he said.
"But the coverage can be pretty poor in areas in the far west including the Lizard and elsewhere due to the typography of the land."
Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon, said he is forced to divert calls from his mobile phone to a landline when he is at home due to poor reception in the area.
"It's frustrating for people living and working in North Devon, especially for business production," he said.
"One must understand though that phone operators are driven by demand and there aren't enough customers in some rural areas to force them to make big changes."
The Countryside Alliance said people living and working in rural areas are paying for the same service as those living in urban areas, but receive something far worse
It is calling people to become telephone "detectives" by downloading software to their phones and tablet computers which can measure the strength of signals.
Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner said: "Our research shows mobile performance, particularly internet access and call rate, gets worse the further you get from major cities. This is perhaps understandable in terms of population density and the logistics of connecting more remote communities. However the fact that someone with extremely poor service in part of the country can pay the same as someone with excellent service elsewhere clearly shows something needs to be done."
The free RootMetrics phone "app" can also determine which phone company provides the best service in a particular area.
Around 100,000 samples of mobile phone reception were arriving each day last month as the project got off to a flying start. It is hoped the evidence will provide vital ammunition needed to lobby the government and suppliers to eradicate so-called "not spots" where signals break up.