Action 31 of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Implementation Review 2017, which Minister Kyne and I published on 21 February 2018, commits ComReg to developing and subsequently publishing on its consumer website a composite national coverage map, which will enable consumers across Ireland to make better informed decisions when choosing telecommunications service providers. I understand that the composite national coverage map is due to be published by end Q4 2018. In addition to the development of the national coverage map, a number of other initiatives are under way, which will address mobile coverage blackspots:
- My Department and the Department of Rural and Community Development have worked to achieve a greater consensus around site selection for telecoms infrastructure and therefore improve mobile phone coverage.
- Both Departments also worked with a pilot group of local authorities to identify the issues associated with mapping local blackspots. This pilot exercise has been completed, with all local authorities having been asked to map local blackspots and identify infrastructure that could potentially be used to provide additional coverage on an economic basis. This exercise is ongoing, and has been included in the 2018 Taskforce Work Programme.
- A focus group was established to provide guidance with respect to categories of location where high quality reliable mobile coverage should be made available as a priority. The report of the focus group was published on my Department’s website on 31 August 2018. It is anticipated that the output of the focus group should influence the actions of the mobile network operators in their work to reduce mobile phone blackspots. It will also inform future policy in my Department with regards to priorities for mobile phone services.
- A working group has been established with the remit of investigating the feasibility of developing standardised policy for accessing and utilising State and publicly owned assets for the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.
- In addition to its work on handset testing, following a consultation process, ComReg has also developed a licensing scheme which will enable households and businesses to use mobile phone repeaters to boost signals into their premises and bring immediate improvements in mobile coverage.
All of these initiatives should assist in enhancing the quality of mobile phone and data services, particularly in rural areas.