MP Sammy Wilson has taken up the cause of constituents who are tied into mobile phone contracts even though they cannot make or receive calls.
Some mobile users in the Raloo area have been left without a signal after a mast shared by Orange and T-Mobile was shut down.
Mr Wilson explained: “People who live and work in the area have found it difficult to get a mobile phone company that actually offers a signal and Orange and T-Mobile were the only companies that did.
“Some of my constituents entered into contracts with these companies on the basis that they were the only ones that offered a service and now they are still in these contracts but are unable to make or receive calls. Now that this mast has been turned off, there is no supplier in the area and this is extremely annoying for these people.”
The DUP representative said he had contacted both Orange and T-Mobile and wanted an explanation “about why they have taken this action and when they propose to turn the mast on again”.
He added: “They should have, at the very least, warned people that they had planned to turn off the mast and given them notice which would have allowed sufficient time to see out the end of their contracts, and so I believe that an apology in is order.”
Mr Wilson said the Raloo and Gleno area already experienced broadband connectivity problems, with many people who live too far away from the telephone exchange being unable to log on to the internet.
“It would be a backward step if parts of this area lost mobile phone signal as well,” he added.
Asked to comment on the MP’s concerns, a spokesperson for Everything Everywhere - the company that runs Orange and T-Mobile - said it was making changes to its network in Northern Ireland which would “ultimately deliver 3G coverage to 20 per cent more people than we were previously able to”
The spokesperson added: “We are investing millions of pounds over the next three years to create a network that delivers bigger, better and more advanced mobile coverage than any other in the region.
“To do that, we have the opportunity to reduce the number of masts across the region and have increased the levels of coverage for the vast majority of our T-Mobile customers.
“We wrote to a small number of customers in the Raloo area that we had predicted were at risk of losing service outdoors and advised them to contact Customer Services after the switch-off if they experienced loss of service.
“If customers are experiencing an impact, then we would be happy to discuss their individual circumstances and what options are available with them directly.”