Last week Areti and I ventured out in the rock art countryside armed with technology. We were prepared to do battle with five mobile phone handsets (one for each major network provider) and a GPS to record phone signal at key locations. Beyond our control however, was the weather.
I met Areti just after 7am in Newcastle. I almost didn’t spot her, the rain was battering down on the car windows so heavily. ‘Dawn’ was a bit of a misnomer, it changed slowly from black to muddy grey. Being optimistic we continued undaunted and arrived in Lordenshaws at a reasonable hour.
We couldn’t see the top of the hill for mist and rain (I’ve since been reliably informed by both Kate and Aron that this is normal ‘rock art weather’). Still, we got out the mobiles and began filling in a form I’d created to document the signals. At each place, I’d suggested that we attempt to:
- Note the signal strength of the phones
- Send a text from each phone
- Receive a text on each phone
- Make a call
- Receive a call
As for the phones themselves, they were a motley crew: my own Samsung Genio Touch, my very, very old Nokia, Areti’s state of the art HTC Desire running Android, a borrowed older HTC Hero also running Android, and Areti’s old Sony Ericsson phone. Between them they covered:
These are the main carriers, and in fact T-Mobile and Orange customers can now use each other’s networks. Other networks like Virgin and Tesco use one of the above 5 networks for their signal.
So, back to Lordenshaws. We checked the signal from the car and decided that was enough for now. It was too miserable to venture any further. So we drove to Wooler instead, and after a fortifying cup of tea, went to Dod Law (at Wooler Golf Club) to check the rock art and phone signal there. I’m pleased to report that the weather there was much better – dry and bright.
Interestingly, all networks had really strong signals at Dod Law, except in the car park, where O2 struggled terribly. In fact, this was to be a recurring theme during the day, at the car parks/entrance to the sites, phone signal was by far the worst. This was indeed the case at Weetwood Moor. Signal was quite patchy for all the networks near the road and the lower part of the site. Once at the main 3A panel and beyond however, they all had relatively stable signal and were able to send and receive texts and calls.
Finally, we made our way back to Lordenshaw, where the weather wasn’t much better than first thing in the morning. But this time we got out of the car. At the main rock it was truly miserable – cold, windy and wet. But as we were leaving to go up to the hill fort the light changed rapidly, bathing Rothbury in a golden glow, laid out before us. It cheered my flagging spirits in any case, and we managed to get round the rest of the site before dark (although it was a close call!).
Again, at Lordenshaws, signal was present for all networks, though it was a little patchy here and there. But as an overall conclusion, there is indeed scope for utilising mobile phone technology and, crucially, we should be able to make use of some signal on site. Hooray!