Two of the biggest mobile phone companies are snubbing the Black Country and Staffordshire for their new ‘ultra-fast’ networks.
O2 and Vodafone say they have no idea when they will be turning on the 4G network despite pledging to roll it out to cities like Birmingham and Coventry.
Currently only network EE can provide the fast-data connections, which allow mobile phones and tablets to access the internet at the same speed as someone using a computer on broadband, across the Black Country.
It is six times faster than the current 3G network used by the vast majority of mobile phones. Network Three plans to roll it out to Wolverhampton, Dudley and West Bromwich by the end of the year.
But O2 is so far only planning to upgrade services in 13 cities including Birmingham, Coventry, London, Leeds and Manchester. Vodafone is rolling out 4G to Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield now with several cities in northern England and Scotland to follow by the end of the year.
MPs and business leaders today urged the companies to follow their rivals’ lead and provide 4G to the Black Country and Staffordshire as well.
Dudley North Labour MP Ian Austin said: “It’s fantastic that the likes of EE and Three have rightly recognised the importance of the Black Country and put it at the forefront of this leap forward in communications technology.
“But it makes no sense that other operators see the Black Country as less important than Birmingham when it comes to being connected to the 4G network. This area is going to be home to a new Jaguar Land Rover engine plant while other factories are producing components used all over the world.”
“I’m writing to O2 and Vodafone to urge them to bring forward their plans for 4G.”
South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson added: “The Black Country and Staffordshire are equal if not of greater importance than Birmingham when it comes to growth.”
There are concerns that businesses looking to invest in the Black Country will be put off without more 4G coverage. Paul Bennett, president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: “There are certain areas of the Black Country, such as Sandwell, which have had some issues in attracting investment because of the speed of broadband.”
Vodafone confirmed it did not know when it would be bringing 4G to the Black Country but that it had a ‘coverage checker’ on its website. O2 spokesman John Maley said: “We want to bring 4G to as many people as possible as quickly as possible and to where people most need it.”