AS THE race to become Ireland's first 4G operator intensifies, telecommunications watchdog ComReg is preparing to release new wireless bandwidth that could boost coverage around the country.
The bandwidth, all in the 1800Mhz category, will be used to help Irish mobile operators broaden their capacity for 4G traffic across their Irish networks. 4G mobile services will allow devices such as smartphones, tablet PCs and laptops to connect online at speeds of up to 45 megabits per second (Mbs), which far exceeds speeds available with current 3G mobile devices and networks.
The Government is also hoping that 4G networks might play a role in connecting rural communities to broadband services where fixed-line fibre companies see no financial return.
The slices of bandwidth to be released by ComReg are smaller than the portions bought last November, when all four Irish operators paid €450m upfront for 4G licences, with a further €400m to be paid over the lifetime of the licences.
The new bandwidth releases are time-limited until 2015 and are not expected to yield more than €5m to €10m in fees and costs from operators to the State.
Eircom and Vodafone are battling to be first to launch 4G services in Ireland, with both aiming for a September launch.
Meanwhile, 3 Ireland has said that it will launch its services in October or November, while O2 looks likely to wait until after Christmas to unveil its 4G services, due to its €780m acquisition process at the hands of 3 Ireland.
Under the terms of the 4G licences, operators must eventually cover 70pc of the country's population using the spectrum.