SOLUTIONS could be on the way to the lack of phone signal experienced by people across Wrexham city centre.
Poor quality Wi-Fi connectivity has long been a problem in Wrexham, with residents, businesses councillors regularly raising frustrations with black spots across the city centre.
Areas include Wrexham AFC’s Racecourse Ground stadium, with a council report highlighting the success of the football club’s promotion parade in May being undermined by the chronic lack of signal experienced by many of the thousands who attended the event.
But good news could be on the way when councillors meet next week to receive an update on progress towards running a ‘SMART Town’ pilot.
SMART Towns is a project which uses digital equipment and data to make towns and city centres more efficient and improve services.
This includes the use of sensors to monitor footfall, car park usage and air quality levels.
Earlier in the year the authority’s SMART City Development Officer opened a survey on the council’s Your Voice platform to seek feedback on mobile phone networks from people living and working in Wrexham.
Carried out between May 5 and July 14, it was completed by 408 people. The key findings were:
- ‘No signal or poor signal’ was the biggest issue, reported by 355 people (87 percent of respondents)
- The majority of issues were reported whilst people were in the city centre (168) and Plas Coch / Racecourse Ground / Maelor
- Hospital (103) but issues were consistently reported across LL11, LL12, LL13 and LL14 postcodes (40-50 respondents);
O2 and EE are the most common mobile network operators in Wrexham, used by 63 per cent of respondents to the survey.
According to the report, the findings of the survey have been shared with BT, O2, EE, Tesco Mobile, Giff Gaff.It states: “As a result of the data gathered, BT has now been able to confirm that it has commissioned surveys of six locations in Wrexham, with a view to upgrading existing equipment to produce improved performance of the network.
“The SMART City Development Officer has been made aware that the evidence from the survey was a valuable addition to the BT internal business case for this decision.
“Although it is anticipated that survey work may be underway during the latter part of 2023, it is not possible to give specific timeframes for the BT activity but updates can be shared in due course.
“Increases in phone users in a given area will always place a pressure on the network. The more people connecting to a cell tower and using their devices reduces the available bandwidth for others.
“This was experienced by many during the Wrexham AFC victory parade, for example, where connecting to a mobile signal became difficult. Whilst the numbers attending the parade were exceptional, the ambition for Wrexham to host more significant events needs to be supported by improvements to the mobile network.”
The report adds that the SMART City Development Officer has developed positive relationships with phone operators and also Ambition North Wales, which includes digital connectivity amongst its portfolio priorities.
Going forward the council may enter into an Open Access Agreement, where mobile network operators can assist improving the network by means of using street lighting columns.
Small cell technology is used in highly populated urban areas to boost the network.
The council is currently working with Freshwave to sign-up with an Open Access Agreement that will then allow mobile network operators to install this small cell technology on council street lighting that can begin addressing the blackspots of Wrexham.
This would be at no extra cost to the council. The Open Access Agreement is intended to be in place by the end of this month.
The report adds: “It is not possible to secure the commitment from the mobile network operators until the agreement is in place but discussions are ongoing and it is clear that Wrexham is seen as an emerging priority location by these private companies.
“Wrexham will be one of the first places in Wales to launch this initiative.”
The council’s the employment, business and investment scrutiny committee will discuss more detail surrounding the SMART Towns initiative when it meets on Wednesday (September 6).