THE PROBLEM of 'patchy' mobile phone coverage on Ireland's new motorway network is to become a thing of the past as operators vowed to improve the coverage.

The Oireachtas transport committee lobbied phone companies in recent months and wrote to them asking for improved coverage on new roads running through rural areas that have not previously been served by telephone masts.

Last week, there was a positive development for irate motorists when Frank Fahey, the chairman of the committee, was contacted by the phone companies and assured efforts are being made to upgrade coverage.

Fahey highlighted the issue after the new Dublin-to-Galway motorway was open­ed last January.

He told the Sunday Tribune, "I was happy to receive assurances from both Meteor and O2 that, following my contact with them earlier his year, they have investigated the coverage of their transmitters along the M6.

"Meteor has confirmed to me that it has identified six new sites along the motorway that require network rollout. These sites are at Tyrells­pass to Rochfordbridge; Moate to Athlone; Aughrim to Kiltullagh; Athenry to Oranmore; Kiltullagh to Athenry; and Athlone to Newtown. Meteor informs me that it hopes to have the coverage improved in these areas by the autumn.

"The O2 mobile phone oper­ator also contacted me and said that they investigated a number of sites along the M6 route using a range of 2G and 3G devices and are satisfied that full coverage is available under their network. In advance of the M6 opening it invested in upgrades at Rahally, Casla and Kiltullagh along the route.

"They informed me that they are also currently investigating coverage strength on other interurban routes which are coming on stream."

Fahey said he was waiting on a response from Vodafone but he expected it would also take his concerns on board.

One of the drawbacks of the government's extensive new motorway network has been the poor phone coverage along the new routes through rural areas.

Fahey said, "The mobile phone coverage is still extremely patchy on some new routes and this is very inconvenient for some motorists, particularly business people who may need to be contactable as they travel.

"Equally, along the railway lines coverage can be very poor and, as we are trying to encourage more people to use public transport in their personal and business travel, it is important that coverage on these routes is also improv­ed."