A spokesman for licensed 3G player 3 described as “speculation” rumours that the Hutchison-owned player may not go live with its 3G services for the Irish consumer marketplace until November.
The Hutchison Whampoa-owned company was awarded a 3G licence by ComReg that included mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) obligations in 2002 and was expected to go live with its services last year.
However, informed sources have told siliconrepublic.com that handset suppliers in the UK marketplace have been told by the company that the launch will now not take place until at least November.
Rumours also circulated in December that the company was considering freezing investment in its Irish network rollout because the advent of MVNOs would represent a considerable change in conditions compared with when 3 Ireland’s parent company Hutchison Whampoa was granted its 3G licence in March 2002. At the time, however, 3’s head of corporate relations told siliconrepublic.com that the company was proceeding with its network rollout.
On the latest rumours that the company will not be in a position to launch its services to the public, a spokesman for 3 in Ireland said it was all speculation.
“There has been no confirmation of a launch date. Such a date will depend on the rollout of the network. We are making progress on our network rollout and will have 50pc of the country covered by 3G in June. All I can say at this point is that the rollout is on schedule,” the spokesman said.
Sources believe that 3 is aiming to have 100pc population coverage in order to avoid the perception battle Meteor had to contend with until it secured roaming deals locally. Last year 3 announced a roaming deal with Vodafone to carry all of its second generation (GSM and GPRS) call traffic.
In 2003, 3 awarded BT Ireland (then Esat BT) a €150m contract to roll out its 3G network in Ireland. As part of the deal, 3 established a joint venture with BT Ireland called Threefold and 100 contractors are currently engaged in rolling out the network from offices in Dundrum, Dublin.
So far, out of the three players to win 3G licences, only Vodafone has unveiled consumer 3G services in the Irish market to date.
By John Kennedy