SITE boss of Bilsdale mast has confirmed that full coverage can only be restored once a new 300-metre mast has been built.

In an exclusive interview with The Northern Echo yesterday, Arqiva's CEO Paul Donovan confirmed that there will still be thousands without signal once the temporary mast has finished.

However, Mr Donovan reassured that there are plans in place for the most vulnerable residents affected by the disruption.

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Satellites, internet and other technology will be used to bring coverage to those in what Arqiva are calling "not-spots."

Mr Donovan said: "The full coverage can only be fully restored as we had it before August 10 when we have finished constructing a new 314- metre site in Bilsdale.

“We’re we are at the moment, we have about 85 per cent coverage of the population, after our new temporary mast goes live next week, that goes to 95 per cent of the population.

“We want to find new sites across the region that could take us to 97 or 98 per cent coverage, then we are going to have to find new ways of providing different technology such as satellite or internet for those people who are going to be in those not-spots.

“Our priority is clearly going to be those most vulnerable in society, those people over the age of 65, those with a disability or require constant care, places like care homes where there are large numbers of people."

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Arqiva have said they are working with local councillors and charities to identify those most in need of services and will find ways to bring services back to them.

The company has said that they intend to spend "significant amounts of money" providing services to people with no coverage.

Mr Donovan added: "The services that we offer are free, so people don’t pay for them other than having a licence fee. The BBC have already said that they are willing to refund people for the time that they are off-air, so there is a vehicle for compensation.

“I’m actually more interested in making sure that we expend our resources and spend very significant amounts of money actually providing free services to those people in areas with no coverage.

“Freeview is a product which is really a public good, it’s a bit like a road or a bridge that has failed, there are other ways you can get around, so that’s where our focus is going."

Mr Donovan confirmed that the new mast was on track to be completed on Tuesday October 5, as long as the “weather goes well this week.”

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