Anthony Browne, MP for South Cambridgeshire has pressed the UK's top mobile network operators to support our life scientists in a letter co-signed by the heads of South Cambridgeshire's Life Science campuses yesterday (Tuesday 29 September).
Writing to Hamish MacLeod, Director of Mobile UK and Lucie Smith of Digital Mobile Spectrum (DMS), Mr Browne called on operators to prioritise South Cambridgeshire as a "mission-critical" location, both for scientific research and as a key driver of the economic recovery.
Having pushed for several months to have South Cambridgeshire prioritised as part of the Government's £1 billion Shared Rural Network scheme, a deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to share a network of new and existing phone masts, overseen by DMS.
This is particularly relevant during the Coronavirus pandemic, when many of our life sciences workers are currently based at home. The letter, which can be viewed in full below, states "They need reliable mobile phone signal to stay in touch with colleagues and share information. Now, more than ever, it is vital that the mobile digital communication supports their essential work to fight COVID- 19 and other devastating health conditions."
"It is our hope that the Shared Rural Network scheme will therefore prioritise South Cambridgeshire as a 'mission critical' centre for the UK's life sciences sector and a key driver of our economic recovery."
The network would allow all four mobile network operators to deliver 95% combined coverage across the whole of the UK by the end of 2025 and consumers can rely on their own provider’s network wherever they are. It will also provide guaranteed coverage to 280,000 premises and 16,000km of roads, with further indirect improvements over time including a boost to ‘in-car’ coverage on around 45,000 km of road and better indoor coverage in around 1.2m business premises and homes.
Mr Browne later commented: "South Cambridgeshire is one of the most affluent parts of the country, and leading the world in the battle against the worst pandemic of modern times. But too often we can’t even make a simple phone call. When it comes to the research being done on these campuses, this can be a matter of life and death.
“Responding to my survey, 83% of South Cambridgeshire residents rated signal across the constituency as poor or very poor. I heard stories of businesses struggling, havoc with bookings, issues informing schools of children’s illnesses and people simply unable to call friends and relatives.
“At a time when the Government is encouraging people to work from home, it is vital they are given the tools they need to do their job well. It is time the mobile phone companies are themselves mobilised to tackle this problem.”
EDIT - Please find below a response from Mobile UK in relation to the Shared Rural Network and South Cambridgeshire, received 06/10/20.