Smart wins fourth 3G licence


16 Nov 2005

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Smart Telecom plans to launch a mobile phone service by next summer following the news that it has been granted the country’s fourth 3G licence by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

The regulator said Smart ranked highest of three applicants in the evaluation process carried out to award the licence. In a statement issued this afternoon, ComReg said that Smart’s application, which beat efforts from Eircom and Meteor, impressed on the speed of network rollout and coverage to be provided at key dates. The company had also made “attractive” performance guarantees, the regulator said.

ComReg’s statement explained: “As a new market entrant to the Irish mobile market it earned maximum points under the promotion of competition criterion. As a result of these markings relative to the other applicants it emerged as the first-ranked applicant and is therefore being offered the licence.”

Ciarán Casey, chief operating officer with Smart Telecom, said he was “delighted” with the news. Smart will now be asked to formally accept the 3G ‘B’ licence and comply with its associated conditions. The company has indicated that it will do so, in a process that will take place over the coming days.

Smart’s licence provides for a minimum of 53pc national coverage to be achieved by October 2011, equivalent to coverage of the five major cities in Ireland. Casey likened Smart’s application to the development of its fixed-line business. “We’re bringing in next-generation technology that gives us a faster and better network with greater coverage and higher data speeds,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

The company, which applied for the licence under the name Smart Mobile, expects to launch its service commercially in summer 2006 said Casey, who confirmed that it would sell to consumer and business customers. “Obviously the residential and consumer market is where the volumes are but the commercial segment is very attractive in terms of ARPU [average revenue per user],” he said. Casey said that Smart would look to cross-sell mobile services into its existing corporate customer base, which numbers more than 300 businesses.

According to Casey, Smart is evaluating “a number of options” to support the mobile venture. The company recently closed an investment round of €55m to fund its residential fixed-line service, but the mobile arm will be treated as a separate business entity for this purpose. Prior to the bid the company held talks with potential partners and investors. The Chinese equipment maker Huawei is Smart’s technology partner and is financing the rollout of the company’s 3G network in Ireland.

Isolde Goggin, chairperson of ComReg, said the renewed interest in 3G pointed to a continuing improvement in confidence in the telecoms sector. “The awarding of an additional licence provides an opportunity to enhance competition and provide consumers with greater choice,” she said.

By Gordon Smith