Meteor supports use of GSM for broadband

6 Aug 2003

Responding to reports that Meteor may be evaluating new technologies and services ranging from CDMA to Wi-Fi services in the homes and within GSM cells, the company said that it is awaiting a decision from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) that Ireland’s GSM spectrum may be used for other purposes.

Anxious to push beyond its 4pc share in the Irish market, Meteor has in recent weeks confirmed that it is willing to support the arrival of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) – companies that piggyback on other service providers’ networks – but has yet to see a business plan or proposal that it approves of.

The company has also been rumoured to have been in talks with Eircom about such aims as well as coming up with joint billing strategies for mobile and fixed line services, but has denied the rumours.

Reports at the weekend suggest that Meteor has been developing plans to use its network to offer customers broadband internet access from home. One option was to use code division multiple access (CDMA) technologies, which are a rival to traditional GSM and offer higher speed access to the internet. One option mooted was the possible link-up between Meteor and US mobile player Qualcomm. Meteor’s parent firm Western Wireless International is also an avid supporter of CDMA technology, which is popular both in the States and Asia.

Meteor is also understood to be considering a plan that would give customers access to the internet through wireless local area network (WLAN) hotspots in their home that would seamlessly connect with Meteor’s over-capacity and under-used GSM network to create a new industry phenomenon known as personal area networks (PANs). PANs enable users to connect devices in close proximity (up to 10 metres) and are formed on an ad-hoc basis and use short range technologies like Bluetooth and WLANs. Generally speaking, the higher the data rate of a technology, the lower the range will be.

Meteor’s communications director Andrew Kelly told “We are currently into our second round of consultancy with ComReg. ComReg initiated a consultation that is focusing on using GSM for other purposes and a decision notice is expected any day now. There’s little more we can say about our plans right now but await the decision notice.

“The aim of the consultation is to find other uses for GSM, based on the idea that the GSM spectrum could be harnessed to deliver alternative forms of broadband. To make these services happen, such as the provision of broadband services within a particular cell area – a much larger hotspot than that provided in a hotel – we would need to see ComReg decide on making an amendment to the licences of all three GSM network operators,” Kelly explained.

“We’d have to look at every business case and are prepared to look at innovation that leads to increased business. The consultation is ongoing and we await a response. We made our position clear on this subject at a recent Dáil sub-committee meeting on broadband. The upshot of this is that there are other technologies for delivering broadband than DSL and we would support the view that the GSM spectrum should be allowed to be used in this way.

“We are supporting a possible decision by ComReg to say that the spectrum can be used in this way across the industry as a whole,” Kelly concluded.

By John Kennedy