The UK Government’s programme to improve mobile phone signal coverage in North Wales has been branded ’an expensive flop’ after it has emerged that none of the 27 planned masts have been built during the project’s six-year timescale.
The £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) was launched after 600 potential mast sites were identified throughout the UK to tackle poor mobile phone coverage in rural ‘not spots’.
When the project was first announced, there were plans to erect 27 masts in several ‘not-spot’ locations in North Wales to boost mobile signals in areas where commercial providers were not operating.
Arqiva, the company awarded the contract by the UK Government to carry out the £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project, has confirmed that no masts will be erected in North Wales, citing technical challenges, access and planning issues as the reason.
Now Plaid Cymru’s shadow rural affairs minister, Llyr Gruffydd, is pressing the Welsh Assembly to press the Government into taking action to bring a much needed mobile service to rural areas in North Wales.
“The initial five-year plan was extended a year to March 2016 because delivery was so poor – but even with this year’s extension, it is estimated only 40 masts will be erected and none of those will be in North Wales,” he said.
“Having a reliable mobile signal is essential for many rural residents, small businesses and farmers as well as those travelling through the area or visiting.
“It is not acceptable that rural areas should be abandoned just because the project’s timetable has come to an end.
“Much of the money remains unspent and the areas that are missing out should be given the opportunity to find a way to get connected directly rather than waiting for the London government to deliver.
“The MIP scheme was put in place to fill the gaps that the commercial operators were unwilling to fill but the Government has used a tiny fraction of the £22.5 billion it received for 3G licences to extend connectivity but has failed to even deliver on this modest plan.
“It has been an expensive flop and should not have come as a surprise to learn there are challenges in relatively mountainous and hilly areas.
“The only people who have lost out are local residents who still struggle to use their phones in and around their own homes.”