MOBILE phone carrier Vodafone has launched a national programme for rural communities to apply for better coverage in "not-spot areas".
The telecoms giant has invited communities to work with their local MP to apply for Vodafone's Open Sure Signal technology and its 3G mobile coverage for their area.
Up to 100 rural communities will be connected to the service. Vodafone's trial of the Rural Open Sure Signal led to 12 rural communities having the technology rolled out in their areas.
As well as enabling Vodafone 3G voice services, the signal also provides communities with web access on mobile devices – giving apparent hope to those without landline broadband.
Applications for the Rural Open Sure Signal programme close on 14 October 2014 with the first communities to be connected by the end of the year.
Rural business leaders welcomed the initiative to eradicate mobile 'not spots' but said it would not solve the communications problems currently experienced in rural areas.
The units require the host communities to have a 4Mbps broadband connection – meaning only areas with good internet access would be in a position to improve their mobile signals.
"This scheme, though well intentioned, will not solve the problems currently facing people living and working in the countryside," said CLA eastern region director Nicola Currie.
With many rural communities struggling to get broadband speeds approaching 2Mbps, those living in a broadband and mobile 'not spot' areas would be unable to access the programme.
"The bottom line is that the government is struggling to achieve its objective of giving everyone in the UK access to a speed of at least 2Mbps.
"The countryside is suffering from lack of access, which means it is deprived of a tool that will boost rural economic growth and promote social inclusion.
"There are other options available to boost mobile coverage, but they are largely micro solutions and only help individual phone users – at their own expense.
"The current mobile phone infrastructure is simply accentuating the rural-urban digital divide and it is down to the government to reduce and, ultimately, resolve this disparity."
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