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02 Oct 2014NATIONAL ROAMING

Making calls in the UK is a more complicated business than you might realise. Certainly, you will have no problems in metropolitan areas. You will almost always have a strong signal, all bars filled, no matter which network you are on. But if you leave the towns and cities behind and venture into more rural areas, then you might find things getting a little strange. For example, there are many places where you won’t get a signal at all if you are using a particular provider. There are houses where you can only make calls by standing in the furthest corner of one particular room. This can be inconvenient, but at least you’re inside. Other places require a much more complex routine. I once spent a fortnight in a village in Cornwall which offered two options: you could either walk a mile and a half up a winding hillside road to find a signal at altitude, or you could use the improvised ‘mast’ at the local pub. This ‘mast’ was in actual fact the pub’s flagpole, and you could get a signal, if you were tall enough, by standing on an upturned bucket with your phone held in the air. This led to some excellent entertainment as we watched people attempting to shout a conversation into their mobile whilst clinging onto the flagpole. We soon discovered that you could just about maintain your conversation, your dignity or your balance, but never all three at the same time.

Whether British Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has ever had to balance on something perilously unstable to make a call is unknown, but nevertheless, he is leading a push to end this national nightmare. Among the proposals being suggested are a £150 million investment toward putting up new masts in areas that are lacking them, and an attempt to get rival operators to share masts in order to give greater coverage. As with all roaming-based issues, national and international, we will be watching closely to see how everything pans out, but you can read more here.