5G operators won't have to provide rural coverage
Ireland's telecoms regulator is unlikely to require Irish operators to have coverage in rural areas for 5G mobile licences, it has emerged.
It means that rural-based businesses and residents may now be left mostly without broadband or modern mobile data coverage in the coming years, with the Government rethinking its previous commitment to rolling out broadband in rural areas.
It may also signal a U-turn for the Government, which had promised geographical coverage commitments attached to new 5G licences.
"It is difficult to justify intervention in improving mobile coverage for social inclusion policy reasons," a recently published report from ComReg says.
"Access to high speed broadband connectivity for about 540,000 rural premises is expected to be provided by the National Broadband Plan.
"Therefore, mobile coverage enhancements are likely to make a minimal additional contribution in meeting any digital inclusion objectives."
However, the Government now says that it is unsure whether it will proceed with the National Broadband Plan, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying that it may not be worth the State's cash after dealing with Brexit and the National Children's Hospital.
ComReg is to consult with the three main Irish mobile operators in the coming months over issues such as coverage requirements for 5G around the country.