Ireland’s Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, has revealed that Ireland’s 5G mobile broadband auctions using 700MHz spectrum will take place in 2019.
The difference is that rather than the roll-out 5G on a population basis, as had been the case with the 4G auctions in 2012, the country will instead license 5G on a geographic basis.
‘If we do not roll out 5G on a geographic basis, we will be missing out on a major opportunity’
– DENIS NAUGHTEN
Naughten was speaking to Siliconrepublic.com following the publication of the first report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, jointly headed by himself and Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys, TD. The report contains 40 actions to boost the delivery of telecoms infrastructure in Ireland.
Minister Naughten said that the 5G plan will dovetail with the existing National Broadband Scheme, which aims to bring fibre to 1.8m people currently living in broadband deprived areas.
5G will be 100 times faster than 4G
5G represents the next evolution in the mobile revolution and heralds speeds 100 times faster than today’s 4G networks.
Currently, 1.4m homes and businesses in Ireland have access to high-speed broadband services and at least one mobile operator is claiming 90pc 4G coverage.
‘Google wants to put driverless cars on the roads – we will not have driverless cars unless we have ubiquitous 5G coverage’
– DENIS NAUGHTEN
ComReg is in the process of finalising a process to allocate spectrum in the 3.6GHz band in early 2017. This will increase wireless spectrum in Ireland by 86pc.
As well as this, the Irish Government has allocated €8m in Budget 2017 to facilitate the migration of broadcasting services from the 700MHz spectrum band to clear the way to license 5G spectrum to operators by 2020.
Naughten said that this will be crucial in boosting wireless broadband coverage in rural areas.
“If I have my way, and I will be doing my utmost to ensure that, the 5G network will roll out on the basis of geographic coverage rather than population coverage.
“The 700MHz spectrum is ideally suited for large areas and geographic spread.
“If we do not roll out 5G on a geographic basis, we will be missing out on a major opportunity.”
Naughten said that 5G will be a boon for various sectors of the economy, including agriculture; enabling farmers and IoT sensors to interact with the Department of Agriculture in the field, rather than uploading data from a fibre connection at home.
“Farming is changing. A lot of rural services are changing and we need ubiquitous 5G coverage to do that.
“Google wants to put driverless cars on the roads – we will not have driverless cars unless we have ubiquitous 5G coverage.”
Naughten said that the intention is to hold Ireland’s 5G auctions by the tail end of 2019.
“At EU level the target is 2020, so I am hoping that Ireland will be the first country in Europe to roll out the 5G network on a geographic basis.”
Naughten said that since the 4G auction in 2012, the telecoms industry in Ireland has spent €3.3bn on upgrading its networks.
He said that while the 4G auctions netted the Irish exchequer a windfall of around €854m, the 5G auctions will cost less for the operators.
“Currently, operators are spending €1.4m a day on rolling out services in Ireland.
“But if our objective is to have ubiquitous services across this island and this country, then we need to look at it very differently.
“You may not bring in as much money [from the auctions], but you are going to have a better service.”
Naughten said he saw the National Broadband Strategy and the 5G roll-out strategy as two distinct strategies.
“They are two separate measures. We are determined to bring as much fibre to as many homes as can be physically rolled out.
“The idea behind our measures for 5G is to fast-track the deployment of commercial services in the cellular space. This is a twin-track approach.”
In relation to the National Broadband Strategy, Minister Naughten said that the intention is to achieve the June deadline, but that depends on the legality involved in the tendering process.
“I want to get shovels in the ground as quickly as possible.
“I am focused on making sure that once the contract is awarded, we can get shovels in the ground and make up for significant time on this, even if there is slippage.
“We are focused on getting the contract delivered as quickly as possible, and hopefully make some progress on this in the next couple of months.”