Saturday, 7 January 2006

No Eitsal no signal

<![CDATA[ That is about the level of service I am getting on my Virgin Mobile phone. The obvious reply to this complaint would be to change to a different provider. But I just want to demonstrate what mobile phone companies are like when there is not a lot of money to be made.

When I first came to Lewis in November 2004, I stayed in the small village of Kershader, South Lochs. From my position overlooking Loch Erisort, I just about did not have a signal. If I did get signal, it rarely lasted for longer than 15 seconds. To the despair of those who tried to get hold of me. Only SMS messages worked. I'll never forget the evening last February, when I needed to call someone, and had to make notes. Off I went to the phonebox. I could here the person on the other end of the line perfectly, but they could hardly hear me. I had to ring off and call back - from the mobile. I had to trudge up the hill towards Garyvard. At the highest point stands a stile, for stepping over a fence. I sat down, in a cold breeze, with a notepad, pen, torch (this was 9.45 pm) and the mobile pressed to my ear, as the wind made a lot of noise that night. For about 15 minutes, I conducted an interview out in the open air, with cars roaring past. At that location, I had a perfect view of the hill of Eitsal, pictured above, where the main transmitters are located.
Shortly after that, I relocated to Stornoway, where transmitters are positioned in the town, so no problems there. I started to make trips all over the island, and found that there was no signal anywhere on the west side, east of Carloway. Great Bernera and to a lesser extent Uig do have some coverage.
The funny thing is that other operators do have a fairly extensive network of transmitters. Closest to Kershader, there is a small relay mast at Laxay, across Loch Erisort, which carries other providers. Why can't companies talk to each other and share transmitters? Huh? ]]>

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