3 Ireland has announced that it will delay its 4G mobile phone rollout until the end of January.
The company, which had said it would launch before Christmas, is currently pursuing the acquisition of O2 Ireland for €700m, a deal that needs to be greenlighted by The Competition Authority.
4G allows smartphones, tablets and laptops to connect online at much faster speeds than ordinary 3G services.
In a statement today, the operator promised that it would offer 60pc coverage in the cities of Galway, Limerick and Waterford and 40pc in Dublin and Cork by the end of January.
“Users with 4G ready devices, in 4G coverage areas, will be able to download a software update and will then be ready to use the service, which will offer data speeds ten times faster than at present,” said a spokesman for the company.
The move leaves Meteor and Vodafone as the only mobile operators with 4G services in Ireland before Christmas. Vodafone has yet to enable voice services on its Irish 4G network, with only data services available.
O2 has postponed a 4G launch until 2014, due to its acquisition by 3 Ireland.
Meanwhile, Meteor announced that its 4G network now supports iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S devices. The operator had been forced to wait for six weeks as Apple ‘certified’ its network for use with its products.
In 2011, the four main operators purchased 4G licences from the state for €855m. Under the terms of the licences, 70pc coverage must be achieved using the spectrum frequencies purchased. However, a loophole in the licence allows operators not to deliver 4G speeds within those frequencies.