Minister’s mobile pledge ‘not enough’

Claas Lexion combined harvesters use sophisticated telematics to transmit yeild and faults data via mobile networks ANL-141011-165521001
Claas Lexion combined harvesters use sophisticated telematics to transmit yeild and faults data via mobile networks ANL-141011-165521001
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Government plans to improve mobile phone coverage do not go far enough rural business leaders have warned.

The Country Land and Business Association Eastern Region said last week plans were needed on improving access to 3G and 4G signals, and not just the 2G Culture Secretary Sajid Javid wants to address.

CLA East Regional Director Nicola Currie said: “The current mobile phone infrastructure is simply accentuating the rural-urban digital divide and it is down to Government and the mobile industry to reduce and, ultimately, resolve this disparity.

“We need to ensure plans are in place for everyone in the UK to be able to receive the best possible mobile signal.”

The problem goes beyond making calls. Farm machinery now uses mobile networks so farmers can link to combines to check yield while machines report faults to engineers and update things like GPS steering data.

Edward Miller, steering and telematics manager for Saxham-based Claas UK. said they now fit two networks’ SIM cards to try to ensure contact.

“Our machines can store data until they can send it but that means you may be dealing with data that’s three days old,” he said. That might stop a fault being caught early leading to a breakdown at a busy time.

But he was also concerned about worker safety: “If you are working on your own, as nearly everybody does in farming at some time, and there is no signal, you’re stuck if anything goes wrong.”