Vodafone’s plan to bring broadband to 99pc of the country

19 May 2009

Vodafone has developed a ‘quick-fix’ solution that could see 3G wireless broadband provided to 99pc of rural Ireland, if changes to its 2G licence are made by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com following the publication of Vodafone’s annual results, the company’s strategy director for Ireland Gerry Fahy (pictured) explained that urgent changes to spectrum licensing in Ireland are needed.

“Without these spectrum changes and making use of abundant 2G spectrum, we can’t deliver the services we’d like to. We’re anxious to see a refarming of wireless spectrum in Ireland.

“We could today give 99pc of the population access to 3G speeds, if we could use 3G on the old 2G networks,” Fahy explained.

Vodafone today said it was now Ireland’s second-largest broadband provider with 190,000 fixed and mobile customers. In recent weeks, the company signed a vital €17m deal with metropolitan area network (MAN) provider E-net to deepen its 3G broadband capability throughout Ireland by bringing fibre to many of its national base stations.

According to its results for the year ended 31 March, Vodafone Ireland’s fixed-line and DSL business stood at 83,188 at the end of the quarter, bringing Vodafone Ireland’s total telecoms base to 2.26 million.

Total voice minutes used in the three months ended 31 March 2009 increased by 2.7pc to 1.59 billion from 1.55 billion in 2008, while total texts increased by 16pc to 1.09 billion. In the same period, average blended monthly ARPU decreased by 6pc to €39.10 from €41.60.

Vodafone Ireland’s customers’ consumption of voice minutes remained higher than the Vodafone Europe average. Vodafone Ireland customers used on average 246 voice minutes each month and 164 text messages in the quarter ended 31 March 2009, versus a European average of 146 voice minutes and 79 text messages.

Fahy said that Vodafone’s transformation from a pure mobile operator to a total telecoms provider that offers customers any means possible to connect is almost complete, but there is some more work to be done.

A plan that Vodafone is determined to enact involves making use of its old 2G spectrum to carry 3G services to the whole country.

“3G is suitable for urban environments, but at present doesn’t work well in rural environments. Our 2G spectrum is on a low frequency band and was built for voice, not data. If you want to spread 3G to rural areas you must use the old 2G spectrum.

“We have done trials with ComReg’s permission and we’re confident we can deliver 3G broadband to 99pc of the population if the spectrum is refarmed. But we need the decision to be made.”

Fahy’s suggestion is ComReg allows Vodafone to roll over its 2G licence for 10 to 15 years to enable it to deliver high-speed services without the Government having to intervene.

“We are in constrained times and we need to be thinking practically. ComReg believes newer technologies should have an opportunity to flourish. We agree, but it would still be nice to have outcomes. We are operating in a heavily constrained investment environment. Ireland needs to put its best foot forward.

“In terms of efficiency, this is a clear way forward,” Fahy concluded.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: strategy director for Vodafone Ireland, Gerry Fahy