Naval exercises in the Plymouth Sound have been blamed for a mobile phone black spot in the PL1 and PL2 postcodes on Friday, after the Royal Navy claimed it was testing new “communication equipment”, most likely electronic counter measures.
After a number of complaints to mobile network operators were made by local residents, Ofcom, the government body responsible for parcelling up bandwidths and licencing them to users has stepped in to investigate the outage. As one of the largest users of radio and data bandwidth in the country, the Ministry of Defence is a key working partner of Ofcom and this unannounced interference could indicate the usage of radio equipment not authorised for use in the United Kingdom.
The Plymouth Herald reports the experiences of local residents, including one local business owner who telephoned ‘EE’ customer service to complain and was told the outage was down to “war games”. The unnamed man told the paper: “At first I didn’t believe them,” he said. “It is just about the best excuse I’ve heard in 30 years of working in the city.
“But I had a confirmation call from EE, apparently there is nothing they can do. They have called Ofcom in due to the high number of complaints and it is true, they are testing communications and interfering with domestic signals.
“Luckily I find this quite funny. Like EE I am not sure who to complain to, but I gather it is causing some distress. I would like to know what it is about my front room that the Navy interested in, as the signal is fine in the city centre.”
The south coast of England is no stranger to Royal Navy exercises. Plymouth hosts a weekly ‘Thursday War’ in which privately leased warplanes simulate attacks against ships testing their defences. Despite that, the signal outage may be symptomatic of the presently growing scale and nature of British military exercises, in part designed to send a message to Russia and in part to remind the government of the importance of defence.