Patchy mobile coverage is causing inconvenience to drivers

THE Oireachtas is lobbying mobile-phone operators to improve coverage on Ireland's new motorway network as irate motorists have complained about "patchy coverage".

The Oireachtas transport committee has written to the phone companies asking them to improve coverage on new roads running through rural areas that have not previously been served by telephone masts.

Frank Fahey, the chairman of the committee, said: "Significant investment has been made by the government to construct inter-urban routes connecting Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford with Dublin. However, the mobile phone coverage on some motorways is extremely patchy. This is proving to be very inconvenient for some motorists, particularly business people who need to be contactable as they travel."

Fahey intends to invite the phone operators before the committee and ask them to rectify the issue, which is also a problem along railway lines.

"We are trying to encourage more people to use public transport in their personal and business travel so it is important that coverage on these routes is improved."

Mobile phone operators were eager to point out that they have invested heavily in the network in recent years.

A spokesman for Three Ireland said: "We have invested €600m in the network and we will continue to invest throughout 2010."

He claimed that the company carried out "drive tests" on the N6 Dublin to Galway road last week and were satisfied with the coverage.

He added: "We have in recent months written to minister Eamon Ryan with regard to a further avenue to improve coverage. This could be achieved by allowing access to publicly owned ducting for fixed line operators.

A spokeswoman for O2 said: "When plans for a new motorway are announced it is standard procedure for O2 to immediately investigate its level of coverage in the relevant area. If improvement is required the necessary steps are taken to ensure full coverage is available when motorway be­comes operational. O2 optimises its network on a continual basis to provide the best possible customer ­experience."