Use radio spectrum for broadband, says ComReg


5 Feb 2003

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The Commission for Communications Regulation’s (ComReg) mission to accelerate the rollout of broadband across the country stepped up a notch yesterday after it issued proposals to the country’s three GSM mobile operators – O2, Vodafone and Meteor – to deploy the unused parts of their licensed radio spectrum for the purpose of broadband.

Radio spectrum broadband is just one of a variety of ways broadband can be provided, along with fibre-optic, wireless and satellite.

According to ComReg, approximately 20pc of the radio spectrum, which has been allocated to the three companies, is not being used for their mobile services.

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com, a spokeswoman for the commission said that there are more than 3,000 base stations around the country with 1,102 in Dublin alone.

The three operators were issued with the proposal yesterday and are expected to respond before 10 March.

In a statement issued with the proposals, the commission said that the deployment of the unused spectrum would be particularly advantageous to areas that might be beyond the reach of alternative platforms such as cable and in line with the Government’s objective of achieving widespread broadband availability throughout the State within three years.

Etain Doyle (pictured), chairperson of ComReg said: “This new proposal which is directed at the mobile operators would be a valuable complement to existing broadband initiatives, enabling geographic coverage of the mobile networks to be utilised to the benefit of fixed as well as mobile subscribers.”

Responding to the proposals a spokeswoman for Vodafone told siliconrepublic.com that the company was already using all of the 1800MHz spectrum allocated to it for mobile services. She said: “Rather than reducing the amount of 1800MHz spectrum by allocating some of it to fixed wire access (FWA), we believe that the mobile industry would be better served by getting increased 1800MHz allocations.”

She added: “We believe that a number of the assumptions in the consultation are incorrect and we will be responding to them. There is already specific spectrum available for FWA. We believe that opening up this spectrum (that no-one else is using) on a less restrictive basis would be a far more effective solution.”

However, in a terse note to the operators, ComReg added in its statement that the use of GSM technologies for the delivery of mobile services continued to be required with licence conditions, and the delivery of broadband fixed services will not be considered as justification for further GSM spectrum.

A spokeswoman for O2 told siliconrepublic.com that the company will be considering the proposals as an addition to its pre-existing broadband initiatives which saw the launch of its wireless local area network (WLAN) offering at the beginning of the week.

By Suzanne Byrne