ComReg to liberalise GSM frequency bands

1 Jul 2008

Ireland’s telecoms regulator ComReg has said that within the next two years it will liberalise Irish GSM radio frequency bands to boost growth in the mobile space and facilitate innovation through 3G and other technologies.

ComReg chairman, John Doherty, said the strategy is to take advantage of Ireland’s abundance of wireless spectrum and foster the growth of a sector already supporting 30,000 jobs and contributing €3bn a year to GDP.

Key to the strategy will not only be the liberalisation of the country’s GSM spectrum, but also licensing areas like digital terrestrial television (DTT), providing spectrum to support the TETRA tender for a public emergency services network and releasing substantial spectrum below the 4GHz band to facilitate broadband and multimedia mobile.

ComReg commissioner, Mike Byrne, said the regulatory body is already internationally recognised as an innovator in the use of radio spectrum.

He said the pace of global economic growth in wireless technologies and services imposes increased demands on Ireland’s radio resource, especially as more and more communications continue to go mobile.

Recently briefing on the wireless goldmine in Ireland’s midst, Byrne said a major opportunity exists for the country to capitalise on the world’s need to overcome the physical limitations of fibre and copper cabling and to spearhead innovation in a variety of fields including digital terrestrial television (DTT), wireless fibre, future mobile telephony platforms and entertainment services.

He said organisations ranging from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to telecoms regulators from markets like Japan and China have visited Ireland to study ComReg’s trial licensing regime, which until recent years did not lend itself to enabling research for new wireless technologies.

A 2005 decision to free up the regime to provide test licences and make renewal of wireless licences more seamless has created the kind of environment Byrne believes gives Ireland a major opportunity.

“This is something we’re taking very seriously and we have been in talks with a number of state agencies – including IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland – and we have a number of initiatives in the pipeline that could propel inward investment or open new export markets.”

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years