New wireless broadband licences from ComReg

31 Jul 2003

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has outlined a new process for fixed wireless access local area (FWALA) licences that will enable telcos to offer broadband wireless services in local areas.

Chairperson Etain Doyle said that an initial competitive phase will operate between 11 August and 5 September, with all applications received being reviewed after 5 September.

She said that any applications that overlap in terms of spectrum requirements will be subject to a comparative evaluation in terms of guaranteed performance and pricing for products, particularly in urban areas.

Ireland is understood to be one of the first countries in Europe to introduce low-cost licence-exempt services in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

The new licences, Doyle said, provide local operators with the opportunity to roll out high quality wireless broadband services at lower prices throughout Ireland.

Doyle said: “The way has now been cleared to offer spectrum for licensed services in the 3.5GHz band in light of the substantial level of interest and the importance of increasing availability of competing broadband services, in particular services independent of the incumbent network.

“While mobile is clearly the major player in Ireland’s wireless communications development, this scheme is a useful complement to the national fixed wireless licences and the WLAN regime.”

The first, original fixed wireless point to multipoint licences (FWPMA) were issued in 2002, with four broadband licences going to Eircom, Esat, Chorus and Formus and two narrowband licences being awarded to Eircom and Chorus.

The sudden downturn in telecoms fortunes resulted in Formus Communications shutting its doors and having its licence revoked.

Amendments in light of the market difficulties resulted. However Chorus, which is understood to have breached the terms of its licence, had its broadband licence revoked in March this year and its narrowband licence revoked in June. The company began an appeal process in the High Courts but has since withdrawn its case.

The regulator said that Chorus may apply under the new licensing scheme but must provide its existing customers with alternative providers in case it does not apply for new licences or fails to secure them.

The new scheme involves the re-use of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band, which is available as a result of the expiry of the original Chorus licence. In addition, part of the spectrum in use by Eircom in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford will also be made available.

It is anticipated that services offerings will be offered in a similar fashion to existing DSL offerings.

A similar licence scheme offering in the 26GHz and 10.5GHz frequency will be offered by ComReg on a first-come, first-served basis.

By John Kennedy