Huawei commits to rolling out 5G across Ireland

26 Feb 2019

Huawei stand at Mobile World Congress 2019. Image: John Kennedy

As a nasty tech battle brews between the US and China, Huawei reaffirms its commitment to building Ireland’s telecoms infrastructure.

At Mobile World Congress 2019, Chinese tech player Huawei said it is committed to rolling out 5G and broadband across Ireland.

The company said it is investing heavily in R&D in Ireland and has strong relationships with operators such as Eir and Imagine to bring 5G mobile technology and broadband to wireless base stations countrywide.

‘We will spare no effort to drive pervasive connectivity to individuals, offices and homes, and create a world-leading 5G network that is unlike anything that has come before’

On Sunday (24 February), Huawei raised the stakes in the quest for new form factors in the smartphone space, revealing the 5G Mate X foldable smartphone, which boasts two bigger screens, a bigger battery and a more sophisticated mechanical hinge system than the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which was launched in San Francisco last week. recently reported that Irish incumbent operator Eir has decided that it is sticking with the Chinese telecoms equipment giant for its radio access network (RAN), despite the ongoing sabre-rattling by US politicians against Chinese tech in general and companies such as Huawei and ZTE in particular.

The controversy – which has seen operators in some countries remove Huawei equipment from their core networks due to potential espionage allegations put out there by the US and its allies – became deeply personal in recent months when Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei, and placed her under house arrest. This was apparently in conjunction with US criminal charges that were subsequently filed, alleging Huawei had business dealings with Iran in spite of US sanctions, as well as allegations of IP theft.

Switching on 5G

Eir is sticking with Huawei for the roll-out of its RAN as it plans to deploy 10Gbps fibre-to-the-home infrastructure across Ireland. Huawei will provide the RAN equipment while Swedish telecoms equipment player Ericsson will deploy the core network linked by fibre.

In November Eir revealed a €150m plan to deliver 4G connectivity to 99pc geographic coverage as well as the first 5G coverage in Irish cities. The two-year project will transform the entire Eir cellular network, expanding it by hundreds of additional sites.

Eir CEO Carolan Lennon confirmed that the first Irish cities will also start to see 5G deployed this year, with handsets likely to be in stores by the second half of 2019. She also said that voice over LTE (VoLTE) services will be rolled out.

In recent weeks it emerged that Sean Bolger’s Imagine plans to cover 1m Irish homes and businesses in underserved areas with 150Mbps connectivity using 5G fixed infrastructure.

The Imagine plan will see 325 sites built to cover 1.1m premises within 18 months, with additional sites to be added to meet demand as it arises. This will include delivering services to more than 400,000 of the roughly 540,000 premises identified in the National Broadband Plan, which is still awaiting the Government’s go-ahead. Having already deployed a pilot network in 55 areas around the country, Imagine announced that it had started to build out the network and connect customers, and that the service will be live and available in 155 areas across 26 counties by June of this year.

Jijay Shen, the CEO of Huawei in Ireland, said: “Our work in Ireland is part of an ongoing 15-year relationship with the Irish market, which has seen us invest more than €30m in the past four years into R&D. And, with the roll-out of 5G through our partnerships with Eir and Imagine, it is our intention to deepen this relationship even further in the years ahead.

“The Irish Government and the IDA have been extremely supportive on all of these initiatives, and our ongoing investments highlight our mutual commitment to the Irish market.”

Shen continued: “At Huawei we have spent decades earning the trust of more infrastructure partners than any other global telecommunications manufacturer by signing over 30 commercial contracts with more than 50 partners, and maintaining strong and trustworthy working relationships with them all. Spread across our three sites in Athlone, Cork and Dublin, the 170 employees based in Ireland recognise our ongoing commitment to the country and we look forward to the continuation of our significant ties here.”

Huawei set up office in Ireland in 2004 and has expanded its R&D operations across 5G, AI, cloud and the internet of things. It has also created a Seeds for the Future programme and a graduate recruitment programme for third-level students.

“With the advent of the all-scenario era, consumers are increasingly looking forward to revolutionary experiences,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group.

“To support the hyperconnected 5G period in Ireland, Huawei Consumer Business Group remains committed to the all-scenario smart ecosystem strategy. We will spare no effort to drive pervasive connectivity to individuals, offices and homes, and create a world-leading 5G network that is unlike anything that has come before.”

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