Twenty four areas in the Towy valley currently classed as 'not-spots' for mobile phone signal will soon be enjoying the convenience connectivity has to offer, MP Jonathan Edwards has said as a new mobile phone mast is set to be erected in the village in Llanfynydd in the coming weeks.
The networks of all four mobile giants – EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three – will be available from the new mast once it is operational, Arqiva - the company carrying out the not-spot work on behalf of the UK Government - confirmed to Mr Edwards this week.
The news has received a mixed reception from the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP as Arqiva also announced it cannot proceed with a new mobile mast in the village of Myddfai outside Llandovery, despite having received planning permission from the national park. Jonathan Edwards, who has been leading a 'Connecting Carmarthenshire' campaign, said he was disappointed with the news and has written directly to the Secretary of State seeking his personal intervention on securing the Myddfai mast.
The Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) announced in July 2013 is a £150million project between the UK Government and mobile phone giants to provide a minimum of second-generation (2G) connection to residents in 'not-spot' areas. Carmarthenshire was listed as phase 3 in a five-phase project.
To make a MIP mast a reality, many elements have to be brought together and confirmed for the selected site. These include an ability to cover the targeted mobile not spots, a willing landowner prepared to grant a lease at an economic rental for 20 years, connections back into all four mobile network operators' (MNOs') networks, access for construction and ongoing maintenance, an economically available power supply route with the necessary wayleaves and last but not least, community support and planning permission.
Jonathan Edwards said all of these challenges could be overcome in Myddfai if the UK Government was not intent on stopping the scheme in March. The Plaid Cymru MP said:
"It's immensely positive news that 24 not-spot areas in the Towy Valley will soon be enjoying the convenience that connectivity has to offer. All four major operators will be offering a connection from the site with one company definitely offering a 3G connection.
"Having met with representatives of Vodafone just before Christmas I have now had an opportunity to meet with three of the four phone giants to press the case for greater coverage in my constituency.
"To receive confirmation that work will start on the Llanfynydd mast in February is a great step forward for residents in the area.
"The news is bitter sweet, however, as I have been informed that all components of the project will not be met by the March deadline at the Myddfai site. This is deeply disappointing and I have made representations to the Secretary of State to ask he personally intervenes to see the Myddfai site completed.
"The project has already fallen short of expectations with several sites across Wales not being realised. It seems as though the technical challenges of the scheme, such as the transmission connection to a mobile operators' network in our rural area, were too great to be overcome within the budget and timescale set out by the government.
"If the government was not so intent on ending the scheme in March then all of the hurdles could be overcome to get the Myddfai site up and running. I want the government to pull out all the stops for north Carmarthenshire."