Data usage on Irish mobile networks increased by nearly 500pc between 2011 and 2015 and around 82pc of all Irish mobile phone users now carry smartphones, according to ComReg. Pressure is on to pave the way for spectrum that can support future mobile services.
ComReg predicts that mobile data usage in Ireland will increase to 33 times today’s levels by 2035.
This means that, in order to keep up, ComReg says that an additional 740MHz of harmonized spectrum will need to be made available to the market in the coming years.
This alone would triple the current amount of radio spectrum currently assigned.
A new consultation on ComReg’s radio spectrum strategy for 2016 to 2018 includes potentially re-farming 700MHz spectrum used by TV providers to be used for broadband. This spectrum opportunity is estimated to be worth €91m in net present value.
Wireless worth €4.2bn a year to Ireland
Wireless spectrum in its current form generates 2.4pc of Ireland’s GDP (€4.2bn in 2013) with around 28,000 people employed in the use of radio spectrum in Ireland.
The issue of 700MHz is a hot potato in Europe at present, with former EU Commissioner Pascal Lamy arguing the valuable 700MHz spectrum be used by Europe to achieve its Digital Agenda broadband targets. He has argued that 700Mhz spectrum band should be dedicated to wireless broadband across Europe by 2020.
Currently, 700MHz spectrum is being used by terrestrial TV providers, and ComReg would need to work with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and other countries to manage the transition.
Not only will 700MHz increase the ability to provide higher-speed mobile broadband services around the country, it could also make Ireland the perfect test bed to research and develop future products such as internet of things (IoT) technologies.
Mobile data users image via Shutterstock