Three set to win 5G battle

By Pádraig Hoare

Three Ireland is on course to bring 5G phone coverage to Ireland next year, beating rivals Vodafone and Eir in the battle to make smartphones faster and more powerful.

The network said it was focusing on bringing the coverage to rural areas as well as urban centres, and had plans to “trial 5G later this year with a view to commercially launching some services in 2019”.

Eir and Vodafone said they plans to introduce it within two years.

A spokeswoman for Eir said: “Eir continues to assess the evolution of 5G technology and we secured national 5G spectrum in 2017. We plan to develop 5G network capability for our customers in the next 24 months.”

A Vodafone spokeswoman said it expected to see 5G launch in 24 months: “We are introducing 5G attributes into 4G in the short to medium term, to bridge the gap between the two.”

Vodafone has already successfully trialled 5G, it said.

Three Ireland said it was the only mobile operator to secure national optimum 100MHz spectrum in ComReg’s 3.6GHz auction last year, which meant it could provide the same service to those living outside main city areas as urban dwellers.

A spokeswoman for Three said: “Three is currently investing heavily in its network upgrade and expansion. This investment will continue with the deployment of 5G.”

It comes as Telefonica’s O2 won the biggest chunk of new British mobile airwaves in an auction that raised £1.36bn (€1.56bn) for the UK government, the communications regulator Ofcom said.

All four of the UK’s networks secured new airwaves for next-generation services, Ofcom said, but O2 also secured all of the blocks of 2.3Ghz airwaves that can be deployed immediately to boost capacity for 4G services.

The airwaves in the 3.4GHz band have been earmarked for 5G, the future wireless technology that promises to link up everything from cars to household devices, as well as providing far greater smartphone speeds.

The UK’s networks are starting to test 5G but it will not be deployed commercially until 2020 at the earliest. O2 said its success in the auction was further evidence of the commitment of its parent, Spain’s Telefonica, to the UK.

O2, which ranks second to BT’s EE, paid nearly £524m for its two packages, Ofcom said. The firm said it will deploy its 2.3GHz spectrum as soon as possible, starting in London.

- Additional reporting Reuters

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