Network coverage on a high street in Kent is so poor that some street traders have been forced to drop card payments.
Poor phone signal in Canterbury has long frustrated residents and visitors, with the city center often referred to as a ‘no go zone’.
Mobile phone giants Vodafone and EE claim there is full coverage in the area, but this claim has been denied by locals, shopkeepers and even the head of the city council
Frankie Fernando, 57, owner of Gourmet Sausage & Burger – which is running out of wagons in the city center – says he gave up accepting card payments after finding the signal ‘too slow or it won’t not even connect – in the waiting, you delay the queue”.
A Vodafone customer, Mr Fernando refutes their coverage claims as “absolute nonsense”.
The businessman who says he would ideally accept card payments, as he does at his other sites, told KentOnline it is losing them several customers every day.
“I return them and send them to the distributor,” he said.
Further down the high street, merchant Lesley Riding – who runs Valentins Artisan Bakery – says the business is losing customers who become “frustrated” with late card payments.
She says the solution for her is often “to walk around the booth, hold the gadget up, and cross your fingers.”
“As an independent business, we rely on the downtown connection for commerce and that can be slow and just disappear,” she said.
“It can create delays for us in our sales and it can frustrate customers.”
Other companies facing problems include taxi company CabCo, which says drivers are often unable to accept card payments at the end of journeys.
He says that leaves drivers in the difficult position of having to find an ATM or return later to pick up the fare.
Canterbury City Council leader Ben Fitter-Harding is challenging network providers to make the infrastructure investments he says would solve the problem.
Among a long list of concerns, he says the poor signal is causing emergency calls to drop, preventing tourists from using mapping apps and discouraging people from visiting downtown.
“Once again I call on Vodafone, O2, Three and EE to take action to expand their coverage in the City of Canterbury and provide fast and reliable connectivity for all,” he said on Twitter, in a post. sent to mobile phone companies.
“New pylons and investments in network infrastructure are necessary. Smaller signal amplifier panels, called picocells, could also be used for hard-to-reach areas, but they can be expensive.
Vodafone first responded to Mr Fitter-Harding’s plea by sharing its signal map, which shows the city center has full 4G coverage.
But when contacted later by KentOnline, the company acknowledged the map was a “guideline” and said it “could not guarantee actual signal coverage”.
The Vodafone UK spokesman, who went on to blame trees and buildings for the lack of signal, said: “We plan to further improve our coverage over the coming months as part of our continued investment in our UK network. We are contacting Mr. Fitter-Harding to discuss his concerns.
Despite long-standing concerns over coverage, many locals have historically protested plans to install 5G masts in the historic heart of Canterbury.
A particular bid for a site in New Dover Road was rejected last December following a public outcry and claims it would block views of the cathedral.
Aaron Humphries, 27, who was visiting the city center this week, told the Gazette: ‘I understand Canterbury is a historic city so I can understand why people would be frustrated, but at the same time everyone matters on his cell phone.
“When you can’t get to your phone, you can’t get anything. Everything is on the internet these days.
EE did not respond to Cllr Fitter-Harding’s online post, but told the Gazette that its coverage in Canterbury city center was 99.3%.
It says it has upgraded several downtown mast sites since 2020 and plans further work.
“We plan to improve coverage in three more downtown locations by June 2024 as part of the program to bring even better connectivity to local communities and businesses,” a spokesperson said.