£25m boost for mobile phone network
A £25 million upgrade to mobile phone networks in Northern Ireland is set to improve coverage for many users.
Enterprise minister Arlene Foster welcomed a commitment from the providers of Orange, T-Mobile and Three UK to boost levels across the region.
The initiative will expand their 3G coverage to an area encompassing 94% of the population of Northern Ireland by the end of this year, up significantly from around 54% at present. Other mobile networks will not be affected by the move.
Mrs Foster welcomed the investment after a meeting with representatives from the companies.
"This is excellent news for Northern Ireland," she said. "My department has for a number of years recognised the importance of state-of-the-art telecommunications networks to the development of the economy."
Mrs Foster said the Stormont Executive was also committed to improving the 4G platform to support the latest mobile technologies.
"News of an investment of this size in the growing mobile sector comes at an important time," she said. "My department has consulted extensively on telecoms investment priorities for 2011-2015 and has received endorsement for proposals to examine ways to deliver improvements in high-speed mobile delivery.
"We are in detailed discussions with the UK Government to source sizeable funding to deliver a 4G platform to allow us to benefit from the next evolution of mobile services."
Mrs Foster said she intended to bring together the Mobile Operators Association, representative body for the UK's main mobile network operators, the network operators and fellow MLAs to discuss opportunities.
"I have been approached by the Mobile Operators Association and asked to sponsor an event at Parliament Buildings to stimulate debate on development of mobile networks," she said. "I will be writing to all MLAs in due course to encourage them to come along to this event and engage with the key stakeholders."