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Mobile phone improvements welcomed

A Shropshire business coach has welcomed plans to improve the county's mobile phone coverage, saying that it could end the ‘blight’ affecting local companies and organisations.

Sally Themans, of Bridgnorth business consultancy Good2Great, says there is a desperate need for networks to be improved in rural areas.

A £1bn deal has just been announced between the UK's four main mobile phone companies and the government with the aim of banishing signal dead zones - currently one third of the UK has patchy or non-existent mobile coverage. The proposal - which includes EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - promises to get 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025.

They would invest in new and existing phone masts they would all share under the proposal, which the government hopes will be formalised early next year.

“This is good news for Shropshire,” said Sally, who is also behind the Love Bridgnorth and Love Wellington initiatives aimed at raising the profile of the towns. She actively campaigns for rural businesses and was interviewed on national BBC television and radio about this issue.

“We have a thriving economy in the county but poor mobile signal is blighting operations. I know this from my coaching work with local small businesses at Good2Great and the people I deal with through Love Bridgnorth and Love Welington.

“As a nation we are constantly being encouraged to become more digital – from tax payments to farmers moving livestock around – it’s all done online. But in order to improve customer service, safety issues and professionalism we need a better phone signal. It is a problem we all just seem to accept but it is putting rural businesses at a competitive disadvantage. The improvement plan is to be welcomed but 2025 is still a long time to wait – I hope we see action before then.”

Mandy Thorn, chair of the Marches LEP, said: "There's no doubt that we need better mobile coverage in this region. Working with the business community, the LEP identified the issue in its economic plan earlier this year. We are committed to investigating how both mobile and broadband infrastructure can be improved to benefit our regional economy. It's good to see that businesses and organisations are continuing to highlight the issue in this way."

It is estimated that an additional 280,000 homes and businesses and 16,000km of roads will have coverage by 2025. The four main mobile networks plan to contribute a total of £530m for the Shared Rural Network, with the government potentially supporting it with another £500m once the deal is finalised. The government had threatened to force the mobile firms to allow customers to roam onto each other's networks in not-spots, a move the companies said would deter new investment.

Pictured: Sally Themans of Good2Great

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