Firms braced for heavy losses as phone signal goes down

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Failure of a mobile phone network in the local area could mean thousands of pounds in lost revenue for the town’s businesses.

Vodafone customers have endured almost two weeks with limited or no access to calls and messages on their portable devices, causing inconvenience for many and loss of custom for people reliant on their phones for work purposes.

The news comes after there were similar problems affecting Vodafone coverage in the town during October last year.

Mark Fulcher, a piano tuner based in Denholm, says his inability to take calls could lead to him losing £2,500 in business each week – and force him to pay around £60 to make outgoing calls from his home landline to customers with mobile phones.

A sound reputation built during 30 years in the profession means Mr Fulcher, 47, of the village’s Teviot Bank Gardens, is in demand all across the UK.

Invariably on the road during his working day, he relies on generating new work via calls to his mobile phone, which around Hawick and Kelso is unable to function due to poor signal.

He has experienced a 25 per cent drop in calls due to the difficulties suffered by Vodafone.

“Especially when you’re dealing with people in the south of the country and in the cities, if people don’t reach me, they take their business somewhere else,” he explained.

“I organise most of my own work. For example, two calls came in earlier in the week, one of which was for a job on Friday. I then had to rearrange my day, and some customers.

“I usually get two to three calls a day, six days a week, from random people, and much of it leads to business. I’ve had a 20-25 per cent drop in calls.

“If I had 15-20 calls per week and lost five, and if all five led to a straightforward tuning or piano assessment, that’s £250 I’ve lost.

“If those calls were from people looking for advice on buying pianos and led to commissions or sales, it could lead to a turnover loss of £2,500.”

Hawick MSP John Lamont has urged the mobile phone company to get its service up and running again.

Mr Lamont said: “Simply because we do not live near a big city is no reason that Borderers should suffer from such dire mobile phone coverage. We pay just as much for our phones as elsewhere and deserve a similar service.

“If Vodafone cannot ensure a reliable service then they must make contingency plans should this happen again. In a time when we use our mobile phones so much in everyday life it is simply unacceptable that we should be left without service for such an long period of time.”

A spokesman for Vodafone explained that repair was required on a link dish located on the mast that serves Hawick and that engineers had found difficulty in accessing the site during the recent Easter weekend.

The spokesman told the Hawick News: “We would like to apologise to our customers in Hawick who have been recently affected by the loss of mobile coverage and we understand how frustrating it is when they can not use their mobile devices.We had an engineer on site yesterday and hope to return coverage to the area shortly. Once coverage is restored, we will monitor the area to ensure coverage remains stable.”