Mobile signal black spots: "It is not good enough in 2022, we have been fighting for it for 15 years"

Mobile signal black spots: “It is not good enough in 2022, we have been fighting for it for 15 years”

For a small community in Connemara, living in a mountainous valley of breathtaking beauty also means living in a black spot for cell phone coverage.

Urban areas such as Shanafaraghaun and Finny outside Clonbur, which are surrounded by the Maumturk and Partry mountains, have little or no signal.

“We are in the mountains here,” explains Joe Joyce, 56, a sheep breeder in Shanafaraghaun. “There’s a mast in Clonbur 160 miles away but once you cross the mountain you lose coverage.”

“It’s not good enough in 2022, we’ve been fighting for it for 15 years. Up the mountain, 150 meters from my house, I can get four bars 4G, but you can not use your mobile phone to make a regular call inside the house. ”

Others have to drive to rest areas on the roads to catch cell phone signals, according to basket maker Joe Hogan, who lives nearby in Finny.

“When you know someone is going to send you a message, you basically have to drive somewhere to get the message.

“If you see people parked in unlikely places, that’s what they’re at, they’re stopped at a place known to have coverage,” he says. “I would not exchange accommodation here for mobile phone reception, but it is a pity that no more is being done to provide better coverage.”

Galway County Council conducted a mobile signal survey commissioned by the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2018.

“This study was used for engagement with the telecom industry to try to help highlight and hopefully in the long run help resolve poor coverage in areas,” a spokeswoman for the council said.

According to two of Ireland’s largest mobile network operators, Three and Eir, the coverage deficit is caused by the mountainous terrain blocking the signal.

“Our nearest place is completely blocked by the mountains and therefore limits the service in the area,” a spokeswoman for Three said.

A spokeswoman for Eir added: “Mobile service is limited in this area due to the mountainous terrain and the rural nature of the area.”

Joyce, who gives sheepdog demonstrations on his farm, says that tourists can not communicate last minute cancellations, delays or directions to him when he has no phone signal. Some high-profile tourists have arrived with bodyguards, for whom lack of coverage can be a concern, he adds.

“All I want is to get an engineer or someone in the house to say you can get a deflector or something here. As soon as you start walking up the mountain you get coverage, so there are pockets and it’s not like you would need to set up a new mast, I’m sure, he says. “My wife is with Vodafone but she can not get a signal inside the house.”

A spokesman for Vodafone said that they have network coverage in the area and that there are no reported network problems or interruptions.

About 99% of Ireland’s populated areas had 4G coverage last year, according to the European Commission’s report on the Digital Economy and Society Index.

ComReg’s national outdoor coverage map allows telephone users to determine the level of coverage where they work or live and helps them choose the network provider that best meets their needs.

A ComReg spokesman said they would continue to work with the government’s working group on mobile phones and broadband “in the coming period”, to identify solutions to the shortage of broadband or telephone coverage and to examine how to provide better services to consumers.

For Hogan and Joyce, a lack of mobile phone signal can be problematic for online transactions even when they can not receive text messages for verification purposes.

Hogan explains: “There is a place 150 yards away – you do not need a large amount of reception for a text message for verification purposes – but when you go there to pick up the text and then go back to the house to confirm, your chance is gone.

“You take into account. I feel I’m okay because people mostly know they can not contact me via cell phone, I use email and landline, so it does not affect me as much. It can also be an age profile, the younger a person is the more likely they are to want it. ”

Joyce says that phone coverage is crucial for mountain hiking. When he fell off his quad bike in a covering black spot some time ago, he was lucky enough to escape with minor injuries.

“I was lucky that I only got my face crushed. I was up in a mountain area, where there was no one, and if I happened to get knocked out or break a leg, I was ready.

– It would mean a lot to the area. There are no young people living in the area or building in the area. There are no children under the age of nine here, and no people between the ages of 15 and maybe the mid-30s, and when there is no service for young people, they will leave the area. ”

Meanwhile, outside Kiltealy in Co Wexford, at the foot of the Blackstairs Mountains, John Murphy runs Mohurry Mill’s general merchants and does not have cell phone coverage in his shop. To make or receive calls, he must go outside.

“If you called me on my cell phone, I may or may not get the call in the store, but if I walk out the door, I have it,” he says. “The coverage in this area is not good. If you drive from Kiltealy to Bunclody, you will not have a Vodafone signal during half of that way.

“That’s the problem we have. I do not know what the answer is, you can only hope that they will improve it in a year or so.

Deirdre Banville, who lives in the village of Kiltealy, says her coverage has improved in recent months.

“It was like Christmas day. All of a sudden you had coverage, I’m with Vodafone. Before that we were a dead zone, you would have to go up in the house and then maybe you only got one or two bars. The surveillance was almost non-existent and it was ironically because we have the mast near us on Mount Leinster.

– It was difficult to get things done. But it’s good now, you can walk around the whole place and get coverage. ”

A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Climate and Communication says they have received parliamentary questions on mobile phone coverage in recent months, but not in relation to Shanafaraghaun or Kiltealy.

He said that a new work program for the working group for mobile phones and broadband is being completed, for implementation in the coming weeks.

“The new work program for the working group aims to exploit and improve the working group’s positive spirit of commitment and robust cooperation structures, to build on the solid progress made since 2016 in addressing shortcomings in mobile and broadband telecommunications.”

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