Friday 15 December 2017

Eir to spend €50m in countrywide mobile network coverage expansion

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten
Minister for Communications Denis Naughten

Adrian Weckler Technology Editor

Eir is to spend €50m in the next nine months upgrading its mobile network and expanding coverage across the country.

The operator says this will add to the €300m it has already spent on the network in the last four years.

The new money will be used to build and connect 100 extra mobile sites around the country, according to Eir's director of mobile networks, Fergal McCann.

"This will boost our 4G population coverage from 81pc today to 95pc in early 2017," he told the Irish Independent. "We will have over 2,000 active sites and our own built out 4G network."

Mr McCann said that a current site-sharing agreement with Three would remain in place.

And he said that 5G networks will require further heavy capital spending, with hundreds of millions in new industry expenditure required.

"5G is going to demand a lot more investment, but equally there is a demand there for continuous high speed services," he said. "I expect to see the first 5G trials in the next two to three years. Ireland will be positioned quite well."

Eir's rivals have also spent heavily on capital investment upgrades in recent years, with Three committing €300m to its recent integration with O2 Ireland and upgrades to 4G.

Vodafone Ireland is currently in a €550m investment plan, although this includes more than just its mobile network.

Mr McCann said that the current network expansion would see the company's 4G coverage extend to over 90pc of the geographical territory.

Irish telecoms rules only require population coverage as part of licensing obligations for mobile operators.

In recent months, government figures have complained about poor mobile coverage in non-urban areas.

The minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, has promised to convene a task force on the issue.

Mr McCann singled out planning issues as biggest challenge to extending mobile coverage to more rural communities.

"There's a lot of noise out there but there's equally a lot of opposition when we want to build sites," he said.

"Retention of planning is a huge problem for the industry. It helps to create coverage blackspots."

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