3 Ireland ditches plan to charge €5 for 4G access
3 Ireland is ditching plans to introduce fees for 4G access in a move that will save two million customers €5 per month.
The operator had planned to increase bills from the end of this month, at the same time as it upgraded its 1.5 million O2 customers to 4G mobile data speeds.
But it has now changed tack, promising to extend an 18-month old "promotional" period of offering the 4G access at no extra cost.
The operator has also pledged to upgrade all of its bill-pay and pre-pay O2 customers to 4G technology in July.
4G gives mobile data speeds of up to 60Mbs on smartphones such the iPhone 6 or Samsung S6. In areas with strong 4G signals, it can be used as an alternative to fixed-line broadband.
3 Ireland is the country's second biggest operator, with a third of the market. It recently bought O2 Ireland for €850m and is currently grappling with ways to make money from it.
3 Ireland's move comes as new industry data shows that mobile phone bills have come down in the last year, falling to €25 per month for the average user. And competition in the Irish mobile market will get an extra boost next month with the launch of a new network from The Carphone Warehouse. UPC is also scheduled to introduce a mobile phone operation later this year.
"Three is known as the network of choice for data users and we are staying true to that by giving customers 4G access for free," said Elaine Carey, chief commercial officer of 3 Ireland.
An Irish Independent survey earlier this month found that 4G speeds vary significantly between operators. 3 Ireland's 4G speeds averaged 9Mbs, enough for everyday high speed internet use but lagging its main rival Vodafone. However, 3 Ireland remains cheaper than most.
Meanwhile, new figures from the telecom regulator show that broadband speeds are up in the country.
According to the telecoms regulator Comreg, half of all Irish home broadband subscriptions now get speeds of at least 30Mbps, compared with only a third of households getting that speed last year. And almost two-thirds of all home broadband subscriptions now get over 10Mbps, a rise of 10pc on last year.
However, there remain almost 800,000 homes and businesses in the State that cannot get broadband of over 10Mbs; 400,000 of these are to be connected to fibre broadband through a State-subsidised National Broadband Plan, due to begin construction next year. The rest are to be connected by Eircom or a new venture from Vodafone and the ESB.
The Comreg report also showed that usage of traditional SMS text messaging continues to fall, declining by 11pc over the last 12 months. However, use of mobile data, which is required for rival services such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, increased by 84pc in the same period.