Saturday 27 May 2017

Revealed: Which Irish mobile operators offer the best data speeds?

The watchdog says that Vodafone has the fastest 4G speeds
The watchdog says that Vodafone has the fastest 4G speeds
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Ireland’s telecoms regulator, Comreg, has revealed which Irish mobile operators offer the best data speeds.

The watchdog says that Vodafone has the fastest 4G speeds, followed by Meteor and Three.

Comreg’s tests show that Vodafone averages 22Mbs, while Meteor averages between 15Mbs and 18Mbs. Meanwhile, 3 Ireland averages between 8Mbs and 19Mbs, although its specific speeds are harder to calculate because it has two licences. A spokeswoman for 3 Ireland said that the tests underestimated real-world speeds achieved by its customers.

Nevertheless, these speed results may also apply to smaller operators that base their service on one of the three main networks. Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile and iD all use 3 Ireland’s network, while PostMobile uses Vodafone’s network. Eir Mobile uses Meteor’s network.

The tests were conducted in December along 5,500km of national roads and in some city areas of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.

Comreg also measured mobile operators’ 3G speeds, with closer results between the networks. Vodafone has the fastest average 3G data speed around the country, measured at between 5Mbs and 8Mbs. This is followed by Meteor, with between 4Mbs and 7Mbs and then Three, which averages between 3Mbs and 4Mbs.

The speed tables come as a government task force is seeking ways to improve mobile coverage in rural areas of the country. A taskforce, headed by Communications Minister Denis Naughten and Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys, is pursuing measures such as statutory access to state infrastructure for mobile operators and the exemption of 4G masts from local authority planning levies.

At present, Irish mobile operators' licenses only require them to cover between 70pc and 90pc of the country by population, meaning there is no obligation to extend 3G or 4G services into relatively unpopulated areas of the country or rural roads.

Based on this criteria, Comreg’s tests have concluded that the operators have met the terms of their existing mobile licences.

All three major mobile operators claim population coverage in excess of 90pc for 3G and 4G. However, they say that planning objections and other barriers prevent them from better coverage in more rural, less populated areas.

Communications Minister Naughten said that the government will soon allow the use of equipment called 'mobile repeaters', aimed at boosting mobile signals in individual homes.

He also said that future mobile licences, starting with 5G licences in 2019 or 2020, will require mobile operators to cover all of rural Ireland rather than the biggest population centres.

Mr Naughten said that this would make Ireland the first European country to base mobile operator licenses on geographical coverage rather than population coverage.

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