Sinn Féin councillor Dermot Nicholl has welcomed progress from Ofcom on the auction for 4G mobile services across the north, but claims an opportunity has been missed to address the issue of poor coverage in rural areas by not offering challenging enough targets for the operators.
Colr. Nicholl, who has campaigned for the end to what he calls “excessive roaming charges of mobile phones”. He says it is a serious problem for residents in Glack, Greysteel and Magilligan.
“In our response to the consultation process, Sinn Féin argued any target for minimum coverage provision should be broken down by post code area and not by larger, regional targets, which will enable operators to meet their targets by simply investing heavily in urban areas and continuing to neglect rural communities like Glack, Greysteel and Magilligan,” he said.
“Sinn Féin is of the belief that a simple 98% target measure of the entire population of the north of Ireland and Britain for one operator is insufficient and will not provide people living in rural areas with adequate or even improved coverage.
“Whilst we would welcome the stipulation that that same operator must also provide indoor coverage to at least 95% of the population of the north of Ireland as an improvement on the current regulatory position, we are concerned that an opportunity has been missed to once and for all tackle the problem of mobile phone black spots in many rural areas. A mobile phone operator will very easily achieve this 95% coverage penetration without the need to expand their network at all through their existing masts.”
He added; “However a fund of £150 million has been set aside by the British government to improve mobile phone coverage in rural areas. It is imperative this money is distributed in a fair manner and Sinn Féin will be championing the cause of our rural communities to ensure that we get a fair return of this investment.”