Mobile phone company Three has apologised to Donegal TD Joe McHugh over poor coverage in the county and admitted some areas have been badly affected in recent weeks.
Minister McHugh wrote to Three last week after complaints from across the county, demanding a public explanation for a catastrophic deterioration in service.
In a written reply to the Minister yesterday (Wednesday) Three admitted that more than a quarter of its mobile phone mast sites in Donegal needed upgraded.
The company blamed what it called “legacy” issues from its takeover of O2.
But Minister McHugh says he is angry that the service in Donegal still hasn’t been resolved more than three years after Three bought rival company O2.
“I welcome a response from Three because I know many Donegal people have felt that they are being stone-walled when they contact the company to complain,” said McHugh.
“However I’m far from happy with the current situation where Three have admitted that 28 per cent of their mast sites have still not been upgraded.
“This is a shocking state of affairs and frankly unacceptable.
“We live in a world where mobile phone coverage is critical to daily life for families and for businesses.
“I have also received information from employees in the industry who believe Donegal has been put on the back burner.
“I also know other residents who have been in contact with me and they have all been treated differently. Some customers have received refunds; others have been refused refunds.
“Again this is unacceptable.”
Three told Minister McHugh that it is still rolling out a €300M network upgrade which will deliver improved 2G, 3G and 4G services.
“This upgrade process involves the integration of legacy O2 and Three sites and then upgrading the combined entity,” said the company in a written response to the Minister.
“At present, 72% of sites in Donegal have been integrated and upgraded and by the end of February, 80% of sites will be completed. This has resulted in Three now having over 83.% 4G coverage in Donegal in addition to improved 2G and 3G coverage.”
Three said that in the coming months our focus is moving to completing the upgrade work in Letterkenny and the north of the county “which will see further improvements for customers in the area”.
However the company admitted: “We have site issues in Ardara, Ramelton and Gweedore at present and are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible and wish to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“Upgrade works are taking place in Fanad this week, where customers may experience intermittent services issues. Any affected customers will be contacted before work begins.”
Ardara councillor Terence Slowey said: “The people of Ardara who are Three customers have been left high and dry in the past few weeks.
“I know parents doing school pick ups who haven’t been able to send a text. It’s just not good enough. At least now we have a public statement admitting there are serious problems in the area.”
And Cllr Jimmy Kavanagh said: “All I can say about this statement from Three is ‘about time’. People in Letterkenny and Ramelton who have contracts with Three feel badly let down and the sooner proper service is restored, the better.
“Customers who used to be with O2 in particular feel aggrieved because we used to have a much better service.”