Ireland’s telecoms regulator has released the results of testing into which mobile phone operator has the best mobile phone signal.
ccording to Comreg, Vodafone has the fastest mobile service, with an average speed of 32Mbs on its 4G network.
Eir is next with an average 4G speed of 26Mbs, while Three’s average 4G speed is 21Mbs.
Customers of Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile use Three’s network.
The tests are conducted in 55 locations around the country, including in cities and along primary road routes.
This means that the test results are limited, with Comreg depending on data provided from operators themselves to assess coverage quality in the majority of the country.
Average speeds are likely to increase substantially next year with the rollout of 5G by all three operators. Vodafone has launched a handful of first 5G sites in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford, while Eir is expected to launch in October.
A spokeswoman for Three said that the operator still expects to launch 5G by the end of 2019 although it could not say whether it has yet picked a 5G network operator. It has been negotiating with several potential suppliers, including Huawei.
Meanwhile, Eir’s chief executive Carolan Lennon recently old Independent.ie that her company is to heavily invest in its mobile network to improve quality and speed.
Comreg’s test results come after it warned that rural mobile phone reception is being weakened by a 66pc rise in illegal and mobile boosters.
Such devices are often turned to by rural residents who cannot get a good mobile signal.
However, the watchdog says that unlicensed ‘mobile boosters’, which typically work through an aerial on a house’s roof, are interfering with rural mobile networks and contribute to blackspots.
“Over 60pc of interference to mobile networks in the State is caused by these devices,” the watchdog said in its report.
“Typically, there is greater use of these amplifiers in rural areas and locating them often requires many hours of direction finding and travel to locate and remove them.”
Souped-up external TV antennas in rural areas are also a problem, the agency said.
“It is not uncommon for an external TV antenna to be erected with some form of signal amplifier to ensure reception of a strong signal,” the report said. “A single amplifier can interfere with multiple mobile base stations.”
Such amplifiers interfere with commonly-used mobile phone spectrum, which is supposed to be strictly controlled to ensure the availability of a signal.
But the combination of hundreds of thousands of one-off rural housing and weak rural mobile and broadband reception has resulted in a glut of such illegal equipment being bought and used in rural areas.
Comreg said that 283 mobile illegal phone boosters, wifi repeaters, GPS trackers, radar detectors and signal jammers were seized by customs authorities from postal centres in the last 12 months. This is a 66pc increase over the previous year.
In an effort to improve matters, the regulator recently legalised mobile phone ‘repeaters’ that have set frequencies and ‘intelligent’ systems that don’t interfere with other networks. These operate in a similar way to mobile phone ‘boosters’, although they sometimes cost more and are available from fewer outlets.
“Boosters are usually cheap amplifiers that do not have any form of intelligence and hence offer no protection to the operation of licensed mobile networks,” said the Comreg report.