Tuesday 23 April 2019

Adrian Weckler: 'Connecting every inch of Ireland a pipe dream as promises go by wayside'


Stock photo
Stock photo
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

This time it was supposed to be different. With 5G, Ireland was to make sure that the network was designed with everyone in mind.

Now it looks like that was just a pipe dream.

The communications regulator, which governs the licensing conditions that mobile operators go by, has clearly signalled that a rural coverage requirement for 5G mobile data will not be introduced.

Many in the telecoms industry will argue that such a prospect was economically unrealistic to begin with.

"Very high levels of coverage on a geographic basis would not be achieved by the market itself as this would require networks to have two to four times as many cell sites as exist today," ComReg argues.

"This could take many years to achieve and the overall cost to stakeholders would likely be substantial."

This seems a long way from a promise from the Government two years ago that 5G licences would come with a geographic coverage requirement. The pledge, from then communications minister Denis Naughten, was in answer to years of frustration at poor mobile coverage outside Irish cities.

That, in turn, was caused by licence stipulations that only require 70pc population coverage for 4G data signals - roughly equal to the combined population of the five Irish city areas. For voice, it has been 90pc population coverage. Again, this means that vast tracts of the country can remain without an effective signal under the licence terms.

This may not have been such a problem if the Government was not currently reconsidering its commitment to roll out rural broadband. While successive administrations insisted in the last seven years that the State would subsidise broadband in 'unprofitable' areas, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has laid the ground for a postponement.

With no broadband and no 5G, rural Ireland will be stuck indeed.

Irish Independent

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