Vodafone Ireland is to launch 4G mobile phone services in six cities and 26 towns “in mid October”.
Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork, Galway, Waterford, Limerick and large towns in the South East and South West of Ireland will all be covered from October, according to Vodafone’s head of networks, Sheila Kavanagh. This would represent between 40pc and 55pc of the country’s population at the time of launch, she said.
The company said that there would be no additional charge for some smartphone plans, but that a prepay 4G offering will not be in place until next year.
4G -- short for ‘fourth generation’ -- gives faster mobile broadband speeds to smartphones, tablets and dongles. Internet connection speeds over 4G typically exceed 10 Megabits per second (Mbs) and sometimes reach over 30Mbs. This compares to typical speeds of between 1Mbs and 3Mbs over the 3G networks currently used by operators.
Ms Kavanagh said that the 4G launch would be a data launch and that 4G plans involving handsets would not be available until November.
“It will be a data launch, meaning the service will be available first by getting a 4G sim card ,” she said.
One reason for this is that Apple has not yet ‘certified’ Irish 4G networks for use with iPhone 5 models.
“We aim to have iPhones available on 4G as part of the smartphone launch,” saidMs Kavanagh. “It’s not yet certified by Apple.”
Ms Kavanagh said that 70pc of Vodafone’s customers already have 3G phones, while under 5pc have 4G handsets.
As well as the cities covered, the company said that its launch locations would include a number of towns in the South east and South West of the country.
These include: Carlow, Tralee, Wexford, Midleton, Ballincollig, Mallow, Cobh, Killarney, Enniscorthy, Dungarvan, New Ross, Carrigtohill, Macroom, Mitchelstown, Bantry, Blarney, Kanturk, Bagnelstown, Thomastown, Kenmare, Bunclody, Newmarket, Dunmanway, Lismore and Rosslare Harbour.
Some operators have delayed their Irish 4G rollout until closer to Christmas or 2014. 3 Ireland is set to launch its 4G network in November or December, while O2 Ireland, which also underpins Tesco Mobile, has postponed a launch until 2014 due to its acquisition by Hutchison Whampoa, parent company of 3 Ireland. Eircom has said that it aims to launch its 4G network by the end of September.
Mobile operators say that they are investing large sums in upgrading their networks. Vodafone has committed €500m to network upgrades over the next five years, while O2 Ireland had committed €200m before its announced acquisition by 3 Ireland.