Ireland completely wireless
in 10 years

13 Jan 2005

Ireland is leading Europe in the deployment of services on the 5.8GHz spectrum, paving the way for innovative use of new technologies such as WiMax, Ultra Wideband and cognitive radio, the chair of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), Isolde Goggin, said yesterday, and called for greater use of unassigned radio spectrum in the Irish marketplace.

Goggin emphasised that unlike most other EU countries where radio frequencies are congested, Ireland has plenty of spectrum available for operators and entrepreneurs to carve out interesting new business opportunities. Speaking at yesterday’s Wireless Wednesday event on radio spectrum, Goggin’s colleague Dave Gunning, director of ComReg’s market framework division, said that each week the regulator is issuing 80 to 100 spectrum licences in applications ranging from public safety and defence to commercial applications.

Goggin indicated that ComReg is currently carrying out a review of the radio spectrum market in Ireland as part of its statutory requirements and said that at present spectrum – defined as including broadcasting, fixed links, air services, mobile and short-range devices – is worth €1.9bn annually to Ireland, approximately 1.4pc of the country’s total economy. The sector employs 24,798, according to ComReg figures.

Market drivers such as convergence, demand for broadband, multi-channel TV and mobile multimedia content as well as rapid developments in such technologies as WiMax, cognitive radio and Ultra Wideband coupled with improved spectrum efficiency were making wireless an increasingly compelling field, Goggin said.

She indicated that in Europe, Ireland is now considered a “test bed” for the 5.8GHz spectrum. Successful harnessing of WiMax, Ultra Wideband and other technologies such as RFID could have important implications in applications ranging from commerce to e-government. “Ireland’s low population offers considerable advantages in the radio spectrum field and it is important that we leverage this going forward by ensuring flexible and ease of access to radio spectrum,” she said.

Gunning added that if Ireland succeeds in moving to a more liberalised approach to spectrum, “there is no reason why Ireland can’t become a fully wireless country in 10 years’ time.”

He illustrated his point by saying there are “a lot of quiet zones on Ireland’s radio spectrum and the radio spectrum as a whole is mostly uncongested. A key role for ComReg will be to encourage a test and trial licensing regime”.

Gunning added that radio spectrum has a tangible economic value and that optimal use of spectrum depends on factors such as public policy, economic and market conditions, social considerations, available technology and legal factors such as EU Framework obligations.

Jim Connolly, ComReg’s senior manager in charge of radio spectrum, pointed out that there are currently large amounts of unassigned radio spectrum in the Irish market, particularly in the mobile communications space. “There is a total of 40MHz unassigned in the GSM 1800 (2.5G) space while there is 25MHz of unassigned spectrum in the 3G space, plus one 3G licence assignment that no one has taken up.”

Connolly added that most of the available 3G space has been set aside for the future enhancement of 3G applications in Ireland such as more video transmission and higher speed data services, but said that it still leaves considerable chunks of frequency unclaimed. “Future scenarios we have identified could include small regional GSM networks for other service providers in 2KHz blocks made available either by auction or beauty contest.”

By John Kennedy