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Glens face battle to keep mobile phone service

Marie Louise McCrorym.mccrory@irishnews.com

RESiDENTs living in an area of co Antrim which could lose its mobile phone coverage at the end of the month have branded the move "ludicrous".

Those living in the Glenariff area fear tourism, mountain rescue and farming could be "badly affected" should the only mobile provider in the area, EE, withdraw the service. residents believe the service is being withdrawn because it is not commercially viable.

Businesswoman Liz Weir, who owns a hostel in the area, said mobile coverage was vital.

"Our area was hard hit by the heavy snow earlier this year and without our mobile phone coverage lives could well have been lost," she said.

"This is a deprived rural community where we have many isolated older people dependent on the service. EE provides the only cover and its withdrawal would also leave local farmers and tourism businesses badly affected."

Ms Weir said the British government had backed projects to support mobile coverage to areas such as theirs.

"it seems ludicrous that our service might be switched off in order for us to become recognised as a 'not spot' which might then be given a new service."

A spokeswoman for EE said "every effort" was being made to "find a means to continue to offer a service to the Glenariff area.

"We have not yet given notice on the site, and hope that a solution can be found before we have to do that. We continue to review innovative technical options that could reduce the operating costs of the site, and make the service commercially viable."

The spokeswoman said EE were working with the site owner Arqiva and representatives from the British government's Mobile infrastructure Project (MiP) - a £150m initiative set up to improve the coverage and quality of mobile network services in areas where existing mobile network coverage is poor or non-existent.

"Unfortunately, to date, DcMs (Department for culture, Media & sport) and MiP have initially indicated that they do not feel that the Glenariff site meets their criteria," the EE spokeswoman said.

A DcMs spokesman said: "We have been made aware of the situation in Glenariff and will look at the specific issues it raises in the wider context of the full MiP roll-out, but the project cannot be used to simply replace existing MNO (Mobile Network Operator) infrastructure on sites which may have turned out to be un-economic over their lifetime."

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