I will never complain again, not that I complained much in the first place to be honest. I once read somewhere; I can’t remember where, that Croatia has a 98 percent of mobile phone coverage. It actually proudly read that not only the land area but also the mobile phone signal covered the territorial sea area as well. That must be for all those fishermen who need to update their Facebook status.
England, well at least the south-west of England, on the other hand has 98 percent of black holes, with only 2 percent coverage. I am back in the UK again, straight after my Christmas break, due to a family problem and this time I really, really need to be connected at all times. I am pulling my hair out with frustration.
“How the hell do people get anything done here?” I screamed at my sister. “I am sure there is a better signal in the middle of Timbuktu than in the south of England,” I angrily concluded. My parent’s house has almost no signal, some people might like that but I am so used to being connected 24 hours a day that it is frustrating.
This is how I managed to be hanging my arm out of an upstairs window, “pointing towards the hill to the south,” waiting, no hoping, to get one bar on the signal indicator. At first I thought it was because I was bringing a Croatian mobile and that it wasn’t compatible with the UK signal. Maybe my mobile was driving on the right side of the road and the signal was on the left hand side of the road. Or maybe my mobile is in metric and the signal is imperial, or kilometres against miles. But no, my continental European phone was not the problem; I was not the exception to the rule, far from it.
“Have you got a signal yet,” my mother shouted up the stairs. All I had was “no service.” In what is supposed to be one of the most developed countries in the world the level of communications is shocking, terribly shocking. “I think I’ve got one bar...is EE a provider?” I replied. It turned out that yes EE was a mobile provider and I was back connected to the world, at least for the duration of my two-minute phone call.
And, I guess they go hand in hand, the internet service is virtually dead. No not virtually, it is stone, cold dead and buried and rotting in a grave. 3G is a dream of the future. If it ever sprung to your mind to moan about mobile and internet coverage in Croatia then stop yourself, it would be a mistake. We even have really high-speed public internet Wi-Fi compared to the rest of Europe. A recent survey puts Croatia in second place with the speed of public Wi-Fi, second only to Lithuania. The UK would be well down on this list, somewhere below Albania, at least in my experience.
So in these times that I need to be in touch with the rest of my family I am left on the edge of my nerves. You literally drive along the road and the signal comes and goes like waves on a beach. “Can you call your sister,” asked my mother. This might sound hard to believe but I drove down the road like a snail, waving other cars past me, with the mobile phone that was in my outreached hand as I searched for a signal.
Mobile phone signals in the south-west of England is the Holy Grail. Of course the reason that people are left in the dark is because of a lack of phone masts. It is a chicken and an egg situation. Everyone complains at the communication black hole but nobody wants a mast in their back garden. Companies have tried everything to appease the general public, even disguise the masts as trees, but pretty soon an eco-action group will be pulling down the mast, sometimes literally pulling them down. Fear of radiation making them glow in the dark had meant that most of the south-west of England is desperately sucking onto three masts, well maybe more but it seems like three.
In London you are lucky if you can find one of those old red telephone boxes anywhere. Whilst down south they are all over the place, and I can see why. “I guess your bills are cheap here?” I asked my sister, “for the amount of time I am online they should be paying me.” I can’t wait until the signal on the top left of my iPhone reads Welcome to Croatia! What I am also saying, if you have failed to read between the lines, is that sorry if you have been trying to phone me over the last week. I am lost in the land of no service.