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Not getting the networks we deserve

December 4, 2018

 

I was looking for something on my phone the other day, when up came an image of Mal Pope standing on a coffee table in the BBC’s Swansea offices.

 

I should quickly add that this wasn’t taken at some raucous party. It’s just that this was the only way he could get a decent mobile phone signal at the time.

 

A survey by regulator Ofcom reveals that 78% of us reckon we could not live without our smartphone. No surprise there but how many of us get anything like the network coverage we want?

 

It’s not too long ago that we were being told about greater planned co-operation between providers and a more proactive attitude by local planning authorities. Neither seems to be happening.

 

I live close to the M4 halfway between Swansea and Neath. It’s far from being in the backwoods but it has taken years and a change of provider to get a decent mobile signal along with a usable broadband speed.

 

Even then, I have to supplement the signal at home by switching on the ‘wireless phone’ feature. That’s fine for me but doesn’t help the people calling in from places west of the Loughor Bridge.

 

Ofcom is looking at measures to improve coverage but it will need government action to make it happen.

 

While we wait for that the happen, the self-fulfilling prophesy of 4G is that the more we message, music stream and watch videos the more we contribute to network congestion.

 

To add insult to injury, research suggests that half of small businesses in the UK are paying nearly twice as much as they need to. Recent analysis shows SMEs (small medium enterprises) are spending around £3.3bn for their phone and data usage. That equates to an annual overcharge of roughly £400 per device.

 

A call from the price comparison industry to the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate has so far fallen on unresponsive ears.

 

Consumer groups like Which? are submitting evidence to Ofcom on user experience. You can do the same by visiting https://conversation.which.co.uk/

 

I can’t tell you that it will make a huge difference but, if nothing else, it could help reduce furniture wear and tear at Mal’s workplace.

 

 

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Banking on a bad signal?

 

Just as online Christmas shopping gets into its stride, an added requirement for your transaction could also be a decent strength mobile phone signal.

 

Some UK banks are already rolling out new security arrangements that involve sending passwords to your mobile phone to check that it is you – and not some fraudster – making a transaction.

 

These counter-measures against identity theft fully come into force next September. They are part of an EU directive which has already been adopted by the UK .

 

It sounds like a good idea, unless you don’t have a mobile phone or live in an area with rubbish coverage.

 

Banks are a bit sketchy about what happens under such circumstances. One says it will probably advise customers to find another means of payment, such as PayPal.

 

An umbrella body for the banking industry insists that members find other ways of verifying their customers' identities

 

Both banking and retail sectors are quoted as working towards “a viable solution”. Pardon my cynicism but that sounds like it is consumers who will take the hit – one way or another.

 

 

 

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