BRIDGWATER MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has broadly welcomed the latest proposals for improving mobile connectivity in rural areas.

But, he says, he will need to see more of the details before he is convinced the improvements can be delivered.

Britain’s big four mobile operators - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - have agreed to work together on a shared 4G rural network plan that aims to bring mobile phone and internet coverage to areas where services are either poor or non-existent.

The initiative will involve a £530 million investment in infrastructure with the Government pledging up to a further £500 million with the aim of bringing 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, Conservative member for Bridgwater and West Somerset, has campaigned over poor connectivity in Somerset, arguing that poor mobile phone and internet services are leaving rural businesses at a huge disadvantage compared with their competitors in urban areas.

The situation was highlighted last week in a report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which says the situation is so critical that poor connectivity is crushing business growth, disrupting communications between businesses and customers, and losing companies sales.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said he was encouraged that concerted action appeared to be being taken to address an intolerable and unacceptable situation.

“But I’m not about to start throwing my hat in the air and telling my constituents on Exmoor that they will soon be transported into the 21st century,” he said.

Somerset County Gazette:

“Unfortunately like many others I have listened to repeated assurances from organisations such as Connecting Devon and Somerset that improvements are on the brink of being delivered only to be later informed that because of the technical challenges they can’t be.

“I have always believed that co-operation and a pooling of expertise by the main service providers is the only way we are going to surmount this problem and I wish them all success in tackling it.

“At the same time we need to see a sympathetic attitude from planning authorities, particularly national parks, towards the necessary hardware that is going to have to be installed to make it all work.

“People are being unfairly penalised for living in rural areas and it is time everyone – Government, service providers and local authorities – got together to enable them to derive the same benefits as everyone else from modern communications technology.”

READ MORE: £500m plan to improve mobile signal in rural areas

At present, almost a third of the UK suffers with patchy coverage.

The Government claims the move will banish almost all partial not-spots, where there is currently only coverage from at least one but not all operators, and an additional 280,000 premises and 9,942 miles (16,000km) of roads will have mobile coverage.

Scott Petty, chief technology officer for Vodafone UK, said his expectations for the deal to go through are somewhere around the 90% mark and said he believes it is "extremely unlikely" to have any impact on prices for consumers.

"I think this is a very efficient way for us to build the infrastructure and certainly more cost- effective than other proposals that have been put on the table," he said.

But experts have warned people to keep pressuring the industry, as there are still several legal hurdles that could stall efforts.

"Proposals to finally boost much-needed 4G coverage across the UK are positive and should help consumers access a better signal, but government and industry must now urgently clarify how these plans will deliver the right level of geographic coverage to match what people actually need," said Caroline Normand, director of advocacy at Which?.