Wednesday, June 29, 2022


By Joe Barrett


A Pilot project successfully trialled in Laois last year to address mobile phone coverage blackspots has now been launched nationally.

Get Connected, a community initiative run by telecoms infrastructure provider Cellnex, originally heard from several communities around Laois who were struggling with poor mobile phone coverage during the pandemic.

The Get Connected initiative has now been launched in nine other counties, and has received multiple submissions from community groups, covering 37 different coverage blackspot locations. Cellnex is actively engaged in the initial locations to address the needs of various stakeholders, including support from the mobile operators to ensure service improvements can be achieved.

Cellnex has recently installed new infrastructure in Ballyfin, Castletown and Vicarstown that has transformed previous blackspots and delivered world-class mobile communications in the target rural areas.

The Managing Director of Cellnex Ireland Colin Cunningham said: “These pilot schemes show that we have the ability now to fix existing mobile communications blackspots in these rural communities.”

“However, given the low population densities, the rollout of schemes underscores the fact that without some form of financial support, it will unfortunately not be viable for the industry alone to fix all of these blackspots and deliver the required connectivity to communities. We estimate the total number of blackspots in commercially challenging areas that need to be resolved is in excess of 200.”

He said that each rural location is unique and, in many cases, without external support. He also said that the market is not sufficient to support the investment required by both the infrastructure provider and the mobile operators.

Residents and businesses in each of the three locations in Laois now have access to mobile phone and broadband connectivity, all delivered from a slim-line pole solution, which is cost effective to deploy in a rural setting and is less visually obtrusive for the area.

Director of Services with Laois County Council Angela McEvoy said: “Connectivity is absolutely vital to local rural economies. We are delighted to have been able to work with the Get Connected programme and Cellnex to revolutionise the experience in these three villages and their hinterlands.

“Having top class mobile connectivity for businesses and residents in rural areas creates a level playing field with urban locations and will allow more of Laois to become a viable working-from-home location or a better base for hybrid working. This type of investment will allow local rural communities to thrive and will significantly benefit the quality of life for residents, as they won’t necessarily have to commute to large urban centres, given the availability of high-quality mobile connectivity locally.”

CEO of Laois Chamber Caroline Hofman said: “Poor mobile coverage and blackspots are something we have all experienced, locally and beyond. Thanks to Get Connected and Cellnex, communities are being empowered to collaborate and work to together to address these issues and find solutions.

The benefits of improved connectivity are wide-ranging for our members and the wider community in Laois. Laois is now one of the best-connected counties in Ireland, and it is fantastic to see this initiative being rolled out nationally.”

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