Monday 16 September 2019

Ireland bottom of EU league on mobile data speeds amid blackspot issue

Getting a signal in some parts of Ireland can be a challenge. Stock picture
Getting a signal in some parts of Ireland can be a challenge. Stock picture
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Ireland has Europe's worst mobile data speeds, according to the world's biggest industry survey.

The Speedtest.net research, which ranks 124 countries, shows that Ireland has the slowest mobile service of any EU country.

The survey is based on feedback from tens of thousands of phones across the country.

It ranks Ireland 64th out of 124 industrialised nations, slightly behind Myanmar and Ecuador and just ahead of Honduras and Tunisia.

It comes after a promised map to identify mobile blackspots across the country was deferred until next year by the telecoms regulator, with the Government shifting responsibility for fixing the issue onto local government agencies and future State-backed task forces.

Irish telecoms licences do not require operators to cover a majority of the country, instead stipulating only that a majority of the population - based in cities and major towns - get a signal. This leaves large areas of the country with low-quality, low-speed mobile coverage.

The Speedtest survey confirms that this has left Ireland with mobile data speeds half that of poorer EU countries such as Bulgaria or Lithuania and less than a third of the average signal quality found in countries such as Norway and Iceland.

The problem is compounded by an admission from the telecoms regulator that it does not know where many of the country's blackspots are. This is due to limited testing ability across Ireland, which require significant manual resources.

Instead, it is preparing an estimated blackspot map based on a data-collaboration exercise with mobile operators. This was due to be published in 2018 but will not now appear until 2019, according to a spokesman for the regulator.

Responding to the survey, one telecoms executive said Ireland may appear to have slower performance than other countries due to a lower- density population compared to other countries.

However, three of the top five performing countries in the Speedtest are Norway, Australia and Canada, with significantly lower population densities than Ireland.

A spokeswoman for Three said the availability of more mobile spectrum would help Ireland to improve its comparative position.

Last month, the country's third largest mobile operator, Eir, laid out plans to reach 99pc geographical coverage in Ireland within the next two years at a cost of €150m.

Earlier this year, the Government promised to deal with mobile blackspots. However, its recently published report on the issue called on local authorities to consider action on the matter. The Government focus group called for the setting up of further task forces to examine the problem.

Irish Independent

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