Forget 4G - many people in West Kent can't even make a call!
SUPERFAST mobile internet is coming to Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge but many people in West Kent and East Sussex still struggle to even make phone calls.
EE, the company that runs Orange and T-Mobile, announced it would be expanding its 4G service to the towns in June, and the other mobile operators are thought to be planning to unveil their own next-generation networks later this year.
But for those stuck in phone signal blackspots in the countryside, surfing the net on the go is impossible and even sending texts can be hit and miss.
Tony Carter, 58, from Norton's Way in Five Oak Green, said: "The signal here is just extremely poor. It is a great inconvenience – I really need my mobile because I'm a carer for my mother who lives on her own. It's very unreliable."
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Louisa Crispin, 48, of Talbot Road, Hawkhurst, had similar problems. She said: "My whole family has bad reception. My son's on Orange and if he leans out his window upstairs he can only just about get texts, but no voice calls.
"I work from home as an artist and jeweller and do exhibitions so I need to be contactable. It's really difficult hearing what people try to say to me and I almost end up shouting, which is very unprofessional."
The roll-out of the next generation of mobile technology in urban areas this year will only highlight how many living in the countryside are being left behind.
Michael Howes, 31, from Holden Road, Southborough, works as a locum pharmacist across the area. He said: "There are certain areas that are terrible.
"In Wadhurst, for example, the signal is always coming and going. I can probably just about do a basic phone call but it's very difficult to use a smartphone for the internet. I think the problem is that the phone companies would rather have the majority covered and don't care as much about the sparsely populated areas.
"Sometimes you have to pinch yourself – 'am I actually in the 21st century?'"
And for some of those languishing in reception blackspots, EE and the other networks have simply got their priorities wrong. Mr Carter said: "Orange sent me a bit of fluff marketing about 4G and my response was 'forget 4G, we can't even get 2G'. We can only get these high speeds if we have actually got signal.
"I think they should not worry about the headline-grabbing 4G and get it working better for the rest of us."
When asked if widening basic coverage should take precedence over 4G, Ms Crispin said: "Yes, that would certainly be my take. We need to be brought up to date. We are spending all this money on railways for people to move around when most work could be done at home.
"Wouldn't it be better to invest in that kind of technology?"