Telecoms Minister Jonathan Bell says nearly all of Londonderry is able to receive third to fourth generation mobile phone signals from at least one operator and that an ongoing new mobile infrastructure project will target the four per cent of premises in the city that are not covered.
DUP MLA Gary Middleton asked the Minister what steps his Department was taking, along with mobile providers, to improve mobile phone coverage in the Foyle constituency.
He replied: “In recent years, the mobile network operators (MNOs) have invested significantly to improve their 2G and 3G networks and commence the roll-out of 4G services across Northern Ireland including the Foyle area.
“This is having a positive impact, as can be seen by the published Ofcom Infrastructure Reports. The latest report, published in December 2014, indicates that, at June 2014, outdoor 4G coverage in Northern Ireland stood at 79 per cent of premises and 41 per cent geographically, from at least one operator.
“This was the highest coverage of any UK nation. In relation to the Foyle Constituency, Ofcom reported that coverage in the old Derry City Council area was as follows: percentage of premises able to get a 2G signal from at least 1 operator = 100 per cent; percentage of premises able to get a 3G Signal from at least 1 operator = 100 per cent; percentage of premises able to get a 4G service from at least 1 operator = 96 per cent.
“To address areas where the market is not currently investing, the UK Government is implementing the Mobile Infrastructure Project. This is focused on 2G technology, but it is understood that operators will future-proof the infrastructure being deployed, to further support 3G, 4G, and beyond where possible. Northern Ireland is now in line for the deployment of 70 nominal new mast sites under this project.
“Furthermore, in December 2014, the UK Government announced that it had reached an agreement with the MNOs, which will see the mobile industry investing £5 billion in UK infrastructure and increasing coverage by 2017, with a view to addressing the issue of partial not-spots i.e. those areas where coverage is provided by just one or two of the four MNOs.
“All of these initiatives should help to further improve mobile services across Northern Ireland including the Foyle constituency.
“My Department is keeping a watching brief and will assess the need for further Government intervention, once these investments have completed.”