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New homes too well insulated to make phone calls?

While all of us are being urged to insulate our homes better in order to save on energy costs and fossil fuel consumption, the French-speaking broadcaster RTBF reports on an unexpected side-effect: some houses are now so well insulated it’s no longer possible to receive mobile telephone signals.

Stéphane Journée constructed his low-energy home four years ago. “We live in a village where the phone network outside is hardly ideal, but nevertheless good enough to have a normal conversation. However when we’re inside, the reception is a disaster.”

He told the channel he needs the phone for his work, and going outside to make or receive a phone call was a far from ideal solution. “Whenever I had to call my clients, I had to go outside with my notebook. It wasn’t very practical.”

Jennifer bought a house in Flanders, where all new constructions have to meet strict insulation standards. “I don’t get any Proximus signal inside my home,” she said. “My partner is with Base and reception is a bit better. I think the Base mast is closer than the one from Proximus.”

The RTBF approached Proximus on the question, and spokesperson Haroun Fenaux confirmed.

We know that houses are becoming better and better insulated, and despite the continuous improvement in coverage on our mobile networks, there are some houses and apartments that are particularly well insulated, and where the coverage is less good.”

And he suggested some possible solutions, including reverting to the good old-fashioned fixed landline, which is included in most Proximus packages whether customers ask for it or not.

Alternatively, there is the Mobile Coverage Extender, which plugs into the main internet, rental of which costs €60 a month. “It’s a piece of equipment that acts like a mobile antenna and allows you to connect to your operator’s GSM network. Of our five million customers, there are already several tens of thousands who use this product,” Fenaux said.

Orange has a similar product called the Femtocell, available free. Base, for the time being, offers nothing similar.

Another solution, and one used by Jennifer, is to use the main wifi connection in the house to use the VoIP protocol to make phone calls over apps like Skype and WhatsApp.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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