At the Irish Telecoms Conference in Dublin today, Meteor revealed that it had sought assistance in arranging a national roaming deal from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).
National roaming would give Meteor access to the network of one of the other two operators in rural areas where the newest mobile company has yet to build its own infrastructure. It would work in a similar fashion to international roaming but there would be no additional charges for the consumer.
Speaking at the conference, Meteor corporate affairs director, Andrew Kelly, said that “for the majority of mobile phone users in this country Meteor now offers coverage where they want it and a better network with a lot of excess capacity”.
“We now have 85pc population coverage and in fact there is only one county in the country where we do not have any coverage. Looking at the ever expanding commuter belt in Leinster coverage is at over 95pc in six counties including Dublin,” he said.
He suggested that the best way to deal with excess capacity would be reciprocal national roaming. Basically this means that in urban areas where Vodafone and O2 may experience worsening congestion problems with the advent of GPRS and other bandwidth-hungry applications, their customers could quite easily be directed to the spare capacity on the Meteor network. In return Meteor customers would automatically switch to one of the other two networks and have ubiquitous service in sparsely populated areas.
“We have asked ComReg to intervene and mediate discussions on national roaming,” he continued. “We believe that if ComReg, and indeed the Department of Communications, want genuine competition in the market, now and in a few years’ time, then they can indeed find a way to make this happen, probably by way of negotiation but possibly through regulation or legislation.”
At the conference it was also confirmed that Meteor had asked ComReg to carry out independent network quality tests on all operators in the interests of competition. “We would argue that a network like Meteor’s with slightly less coverage but significantly higher quality in the areas that it does cover might better serve large numbers of customers,” he continued.
Accepting that Meteor does not yet have full national coverage he suggested that a quality survey should test all of the networks in the cities, towns and on major routes where coverage and quality are needed most.
By Dick O’Brien