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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

5G in Coverdale: Ancient valley set for telecoms upgrade


Coverdale in North Yorkshire is a beautiful place to live. It’s rich in quality of life but technologically poor. There is no mobile phone signal – this is one of those ‘not spots’ you hear about – and broadband is frustratingly slow.

Sarah Close, who lives in a farmhouse in the dale, just laughs when I ask how fast the download speed is.

“It irritates me. We pay the same as people in cities, but we get terrible service.

“We live in a beautiful place, but it’s very difficult to work in that beautiful place,” says the housing development officer, who has a two-hour commute to work more frequently than necessary due to the slow internet connection.

arah Close says poor connections make working from home difficult in Coverdale

Superfast broadband is currently on the verge of reaching the 200 or so homes in the area. If you live in nearby Middleham or Leyburn, you can get decent speeds, but as you climb Coverdale, they vanish along with the mobile phone signal.

It’s not just a mobile black hole; you can drive for more than 12 miles without receiving a signal.

If there is an emergency or you have a breakdown, you must knock on someone’s door or locate an old-fashioned phone box.

‘Lot of complaints’

Forbidden Corner, a labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, and follies, is the dale’s most popular tourist attraction. It also serves as a wedding venue and has a sophisticated restaurant called The Saddle Room.

However, there is no mobile signal, much to the chagrin of one of its directors, Leo Morris.

“We have a lot of customer complaints.” The most common reaction is a walk-out.

“Someone reserved a cottage for the weekend with the intention of doing some work and calling loved ones.” But they couldn’t do it, so they just threw the keys back on the desk and walked away.”

To make a phone call or receive a text message, Leo must drive to the top of a nearby hill. In the winter, it’s a cold and desolate location.

Businessman Leo Morris currently has to take mobile calls in his car at the top of a hill

“The problem is that I might do this four or five times a day, and with the new security codes sent by text from banks, it’s becoming a lot more frequent.”

The twenty-first century, on the other hand, is on its way. A 5G mast has been installed just outside the village of West Scrafton, which will revolutionise communications.

It will provide wireless broadband to those who want it as part of a government-funded scheme to help isolated rural communities, and it will be fast because it is 5G.

The network of dry stone walls in the dale will soon be complemented by a new communications network

Residents will be provided with all of the equipment required to operate a receiver at home. They can also request a MiFi device, which they can wirelessly tether to their phones and use to make internet calls while out and about.

It’s a game changer for farmer Tim Brown. He claims that the area is 30 years behind the rest of the world, but that 5G will make his business safer.

“Right now, if there’s an accident, it takes a few minutes to get the emergency services here.” We have to dash down to the house, ring from the house, and time is running out, isn’t it?”

Tim Brown says the outlook for farm safety will improve with the arrival of 5G

Edward, his 19-year-old son, works alongside him.

“I just graduated from college, and there is so much technology in farming now.” Everything can be done online, but we can’t because we can’t connect to the internet. It will make a significant difference.”

Sam Lambert, 22, lives with his parents in Braidley, six miles away. He is studying architecture and hopes to one day run a business from home, but this is currently impossible.

The new 5G network has the potential to change everything.

“It means I can work from home instead of driving 95 miles round trip every day.” And from a lifestyle standpoint, I could go online and watch movies, which I can’t do right now.”

Sam also believes that good broadband and a mobile signal will entice families to return to the area, thereby strengthening the community and local schools.

In a few weeks, the 5G mast will be activated, and mobile phone receivers will follow. This ancient dale is being renovated.

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