Telefónica Ireland’s Tony Hanway: 4G will be a catalyst for bridging the digital divide (video)

17 Apr 2013

Tony Hanway, chief executive, Telefónica Ireland

Telefónica Ireland CEO Tony Hanway said that when 4G arrives in the coming months it will help to bridge Ireland’s digital divide by bringing with it vast improvements in the quality and availability of existing 3G networks. O2 paid just under €125m for its share of 4G spectrums in the pre-Christmas auctions.

Telefónica-owned O2 successfully bid for spectrum allocations in the 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands.

Hanway said the key opportunity he sees for 4G is the extent to which it will help bridge the digital divide in Ireland, between well-served urban communities and poorly served rural communities.

“It will be exciting for Ireland Inc because it is going to allow Irish people to enjoy much faster speeds and to do things on the move that they hadn’t been able to do before.

“It’s going to bridge the digital divide and help coverage in rural areas, especially areas where in reality fixed broadband is just not going to penetrate.”

Hanway said the arrival of 4G, which will improve on 3G speeds by up to a factor of five in certain areas, will also enable a greater spread of 3G coverage in rural areas.

“If you go back to when 3G first came out there were huge promises at the time and then there was a period of up to five years where people wondered would 3G deliver on those promises and eventually it did. I think the catalyst for that was developments on the handset and (in devices).”

Hanway said the exciting thing about 4G is that it is being pre-empted by advances in handset technology and many of the services that will define it have yet to be created.

“The developments on the handset side and the network side are so advanced that the exciting thing for 4G is going to be what services will be created over the next 18 to 24 months that are going to be enabled by speeds that are five or six times greater than the speeds we see on 3G now.

“I think the 3G speeds we see in Ireland are actually very good and they compare very favourably with international benchmarks.

“And I think that is one of the unheralded things that the recent spectrum auctions have revealed. The new spectrum that the operators obtained allows improvements in 3G coverage and 3G speeds, as well. In reality, there are far more 3G handsets out there than LTE-enabled devices.

“The 4G rollout will commence in 2013 but this is obviously going to be somewhat curtailed by the fact that the rollout will take some time and handset availability is going to be building from a low base,” Hanway said.

4G and the cloud: a natural fit

One of the potential impacts of 4G and greater connectivity will be improvements in business productivity, Hanway said, and in particular, the use of cloud computing.

“We see cloud as a very exciting opportunity and we see it from two different aspects. From the employees’ point of view it is going to increase mobility of the workforce and allow people to work much more efficiently from home and strike a much better work-life balance.

“On the enterprise side, cloud offers a great opportunity for business people to realise greater efficiencies. If you engage and really work on a cloud strategy, it frees up a business to work on what it really should be doing, which is working with customers, developing new sales channels and look into new products.

“The days of a company having to carry a huge IT and telecoms overhead are over and I think that’s because of cloud computing.”

Tony Hanway will be a panelist at the upcoming Digital Ireland Forum which takes place in Dublin’s Convention Centre at 8am on Friday, 19 April. For further information or to book your place, visit the event site.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years