Mobile networks to boost coverage in England’s national parks

National parks cover 10% of England on a map, and they’re home to over 300,000 people, but mobile reception is weak to non-existent across much of them. That’s soon going to change, though…

If you live in the wilds of the North York Moors, the Peak District or the Norfolk Broads, and you can never get a decent mobile phone signal, there's new hope on the horizon.

Mobile networks EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have signed an agreement with National Parks England, the National Park Authorities association, to increase their coverage across some of England's most remote and rugged terrain.

The nine national parks - Northumberland, Lake District, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Peak District, Broads, New Forest, Exmoor and Dartmoor - cover about 10% of England on a map and have a combined population of around 330,000.

At the moment, coverage is poor or non-existent across much of the rural landscape.

John Cooke, director of the Mobile Operators Association, which represents the UK's 'big four' networks, said: "There are compelling social and economic reasons for having good mobile connectivity in rural areas."

One of these is mobile broadband, according to Cooke, because it doesn't involve the same logistical barriers as reaching remote areas with faster fixed-line broadband, mainly the costs and labour involved with laying fibre optic cables across long distances.

To fill the gaps in coverage, new masts will be built between existing ones, because the radio waves used by mobile phones only reach so far before they're obstructed by hilly and stony terrain in the same way they're hampered by tall buildings in towns and cities.

As well as allowing residents of the national parks to call, text and access the internet on the go, better mobile coverage should also improve safety for people who get into difficulty doing activities such as climbing and need to call the emergency services.

Since 2009, it's been possible to make an emergency phone call even if your own mobile network doesn't cover your current location. Your phone will automatically 'roam' onto any available network, although your handset will be restricted to calling 999.

However, there are still some rural areas with no coverage whatsoever where an emergency call can't be made on any network.

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