Mobile network operator EE says it will invest in extra security measures as it works to restore the signal at a site in Heath and Reach following vandalism.
Residents and businesses have been left fuming at the prolonged loss of service since the incident at the water tower site off Eastern Avenue about six weeks ago.
Today, EE was unable to confirm to the LBO how much longer it would take for work to be completed.
The delays have promoted a fiece backlash, with some residents threatening to go to the Ofcom Ombudsman as a result of ongoing problems and, what they claim, are conflicting explanations from the company over the down time.
An EE spokesperson said: “Due to repeated theft and vandalism at one of our sites in the Heath and Reach area, some of our customers are experiencing signal issues.
“We’re working to replace the stolen parts and carry out full repairs as soon as possible, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused. We are now investing in extra security and potentially CCTV to protect coverage in the area.”
EE says it will discuss compensation with customers on a case-by-case basis and is urging anyone with any information about the vandalism to contact police.
The absence of the phone signal means Heath and Reach Veterinary Surgery can only rely on landline calls, something that is becoming a problem.
Hannah Johnston, veterinary surgeon, said: “All day long we have to make calls out to the owners with results and updates about their pets.
“We have mobile phones for this purpose, but we can’t use them. If people want to ring us, they come through on the landline, but sometimes it’s difficult not to tie up the landlines now we have to make outgoing calls [as well as taking incoming ones].
“It’s got to have had an impact on the business. It’s very frustrating for customers too, for example, people are waiting for us to call with their pet’s blood test results.”
Hannah explained that the lack of signal is also causing problems because they need to ring the Kingswood Farm cattery and kennel staff when a pet needs collecting from, or bringing to, reception. The staff are often out walking the dogs in the fields or looking after the animals, so their landline isn’t always answered.
Meanwhile, their staff, who rely on mobiles in case of family emergencies or calls from their children’s school, have also been left feeling fed up with EE.
Hannah added: “It’s not just our business in Heath and Reach, I know a few that have been affected, as well as people working from home.”
Hannah’s father, Bob Reeve, proprietor of Kingswood Farm Kennels and Cattery, said: “We have had no signal for about six weeks now. EE have given various replies as to what’s going on, but no-one believes them anymore.
“First they said they can’t get access to the water tower. Apparently something has been damaged on it, but the village Facebook page has lots of different explanations which people have been told.
“It’s getting laughable now!”
His wife, Anne, added: “Oddly, EE have said they can’t get to the site, despite the vandals being able to access it!”
Virgin Mobile customer Keith Oddie says he hasn’t had a signal for over a month.
He said: “I have spoken to Virgin customer service on three occasions in the last month and they on each occasion have denied any problem with the mobile signal in Heath and Reach, this despite the fact that EE website has clearly shown there is a problem!
“On the second occasion I was even sent a new Sim card to improve my reception although the advisor was unable to explain how this would repair a broken mast!
“My third call on Friday still got no answer from Virgin. [They said] ‘there is no problem with the mobile signal in your area’. I did point out that this was strange as the websites for EE, O2, Three and Smarty all confirm a problem. Since ‘there is no problem’ Virgin will not refund any monthly fees but I would bet they will ensure they get a refund from EE!”
Virgin Mobile told the LBO: “We have raised this with EE - Virgin Mobile operates using the EE network and as such uses EE masts.”
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