Some readers will remember that back in May 2013 the Orange cellular mast on top of Cocking Hill failed to transmit mobile phone signals for about 12 days (although the mast itself did not actually go missing).
Sadly, history now appears to be repeating itself. Intermittent outages last week have been followed by a complete lack of signal since Monday morning (11th August). We believe this problem affects customers of EE (Orange and T-Mobile), and '3' as these companies share the mast.
Due to geography and possibly lack of investment, Cocking is ill-served for mobile coverage generally. Without the local mast the village is lucky to receive a patchy and weak signal from another mast miles away. Even when the local mast is working it does not provide the modern 3G (let alone 4G) signals that are needed to browse the web effectively on mobile devices. Coupled with the relatively poor Broadband service in the village, Cocking stubbornly remains a slow-spot.
Click here for an interesting Guardian article on the subject of poor (not necessarily missing) mobile signals and the attitude of the networks once the customer has signed a contract. Nationally, EE has about 28 million mobile customers and so it seems that a few hundred customers in the South Downs are not a high priority.
Thu 14/08 12:00
Having contacted EE Technical Support, cocking.org was told that the fault actually lies in another (T-Mobile) mast that normally provides our signal via a link (presumably a line of sight microwave link). That mast was reported as being out of action two days ago and the company claim to be working on the problem. Thus Cocking's mast seems to be the end of a line and it won't be of much comfort, but there must be at least another community 'up the line' with the same lack of signal.
Fri 15/08 15:00
Although they seemed to have a slightly different view of what had gone wrong, Orange Technical Support nevertheless claimed that the problem should be fixed by Monday or Tuesday next week i.e after up to 8 or 9 days outage. Happily they didn't finish the call by saying that they hoped I would have a 'have a good weekend'. Customer service training?
Tue 19/08 07:00
Not really an update, but just to note that this was the day by which Orange had said they would fix the problem. Let's hope they do, but various villagers have contacted them and been given no definite date. Some have already been promised rebates on rental and so it seems worthwhile for customers to brave the support line and insist on compensation.
Fri 22/08 16:00
No more news and obviously Orange don't give out any reliable information or realistic estimates of when the problem will be fixed. It is to be hoped that a lot of customers are now getting the two months rental refunds that some have already been promised when they have complained.
This is becoming an annual event.
Fri 22/08 23:00
I have just received a text that was sent some time after 2 pm. The signal is back. I hope for good.
Mon 25/08 14:30
The signal lasted the weekend, butl was lost again for about half an hour. Maybe all is not back to normal yet.
Wed 27/08 09:00
The service isn't back to normal yet, unless the new normal is patchy with long periods of outage. The signal disappeared yesterday morning sometime and it still hasn't reappeared For whatever reason, EE/Orange seems incapable of delivering a reliable service.
Mon 15 Sep 11:30
We now have a new report that it could be another month before the signal is restored. At the same time it is being said that restoration depends on a new (presumably not only visible, but improved) mast being installed. As usual it is unwise to give 100% credence to anything an Orange/EE representative says as there have been conflicting explanations in the past.
The media are currently getting interested in this story and there may be developments in the near future - watch this space!
Simon Jenkins from BBC Radio Sussex is here in Lamberts Yard interviewing us about the problem. Let's hope the publicity helps. A TV crew from BBC South Today are due later.
Thu 9 Oct
Article entitled No mobile signal for eight weeks appears on page 5 of the Midhurst and Petworth Observer along with an article in 'Comment' entitled Mobile Signal is not bright, in an ironic reference to the company's advertising slogan. Cocking.org understands that local MP, Andrew Tyrie has now been informed of the problem.
Mon 20th Oct 07:30
Frances Russell spoke on the BBC Sussex 'Sussex Breakfast' programme, again, telling listeners how nothing had changed and that she was getting 'absolutely nowhere' trying to get information from Orange /EE. The BBC explained how they too had great problems with feedback from Orange; the latest press officer they had spoken to was completely unaware of the previous discussions.Wed 22nd Oct a.m.
BBC South Today paid a second visit to Cocking. They interviewed Richard Marks, Frances Russell and Nick Birch. On air they announced that OFCOM, the regulator, had agreed to mount an enquiry into the village's loss of signal.
Tue 28th Oct p.m.
Tue 28th October
EE post an article on their Community Site, blaming the problem on 'numerous technical issues' and also trees slowly growing to block the line of sight between local masts.
And in the afternoon of same day:
There appeared to be a signal that was strong enough to make calls! South Today referred to Cocking's major problems and OFCOM's involvement when reporting intermittent signal problems on the Isle of Wight.