A national 4G plan aims to see coverage in Northern Ireland increase to 91%.
The UK’s big four mobile operators have agreed to work together on a shared 4G rural network plan to increase mobile connectivity across the country.
EE, O2, Three and Vodafone will collectively fund £530 million towards a network of new and existing phone masts they would all share equally, though the deal is yet to be finalised.
If it goes ahead, the Government has pledged up to £500 million towards the proposal, which aims to bring 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025 by addressing so-called “not-spots” in remote locations.
Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said the plan is not yet a done deal but added: “I want to see industry move quickly so we can reach a final agreement early next year.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said: “This £1 billion deal is a massive boost to people and businesses in Northern Ireland, especially in rural communities.
“It aims to see 4G coverage increase to 91%, boosting growth, improving access to services and providing the infrastructure NI needs in order to flourish in the digital economy.”
Tina McKenzie, FSB NI policy chair, welcomed the plan.
She said: “Small business owners rely heavily on their mobile phone to speak to customers, keep in touch with staff and access the internet, while frequently on the move. Unfortunately, too often this is hampered by poor mobile signal, particularly in more rural parts of NI.
“Currently, more than two-fifths of premises in Northern Ireland cannot access 4G services from all providers. It is therefore welcome that today the government has announced a ‘shared rural network’ for mobile services with investment in a network of new and existing phone masts which would be shared by the main providers.
“Businesses in Northern Ireland must see benefits of this investment, which will hopefully bring an end to those much-loathed ‘not spots’ where it is impossible to access a decent mobile signal.”