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Aviation authority fears on mobile spectrum boost

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Key facility: The IAA is concerned the move could affect traffic at Dublin Airport

Key facility: The IAA is concerned the move could affect traffic at Dublin Airport

Key facility: The IAA is concerned the move could affect traffic at Dublin Airport

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and broadband provider Virgin Media have expressed concern about plans by the telecoms regulator to provide extra radio spectrum to mobile telephone and broadband suppliers to cater for the huge increase in demand provoked by the Covid-19 crisis.

The IAA and Virgin have warned ComReg that its proposal for extra temporary spectrum to allow additional capacity on mobile networks poses a threat to their operations.

ComReg claims the swiftness and impact of Covid-19 measures introduced by the Government has resulted in significant increases and changes to the normal level of traffic on mobile communication networks as well as in the geographic and time-of-day patterns of use.

The regulator has emphasised the importance of ensuring that people who depend on communication networks continue to have access to essential Government services and stay in contact with relatives and friends.

It follows a joint request last month from all three mobile network operators - Eir, Three and Vodafone - for ComReg to temporarily release extra radio spectrum on the 700MHz and 2.6GHz bands available along with a temporary liberalisation of the licensed 2.1GHz band so that it can be used for 4G and other technologies rather than just 3G.

Three said its network had seen new records set for daily demand and data use on several occasions over the past few weeks and expected such levels will be surpassed in the near future as more people follow the Government's "stay at home" guidelines.

However, the IAA has said it is "greatly concerned" at the proposed use of the 2.6GHz band because of its proximity to the band used by radars that assist the work of air traffic controllers.

The IAA said its radars were critical to the safe and efficient operation of a key facility like Dublin Airport which was the main point of entry for many medical supplies required by the HSE during the current crisis.

It warned that anything that could affect the performance of radars could lead to delays and possible cancellation of flights to and from Irish airports and through Irish controlled airspace.

Virgin Media, which uses the 700MHz band on its closed fixed cable network, claims the temporary release of spectrum on this bandwidth is likely to result in interference which would have "a significant adverse impact" on its services.

Virgin said it provides services to over 950,000 premises. It services consumers and Government bodies, including the HSE.

Virgin claimed ComReg's proposal seemed to be wholly driven by requests made by mobile network operators concerned about recent growth.

Irish Independent