Who needs wires? Naughten touts €78 million radio frequency sale as rural broadband solution

Comreg has cut a €78 million deal for the rights to broadcast on the part of the radio spectrum expected to be used for the next generation of mobile internet in a boost to rural broadband plans.

The deal was struck with five telecoms firms and will go towards building what radio experts are calling the “fifth generation” of mobile internet – 5G.

“The level of frustration felt by people in rural Ireland at the lack of quality mobile and wireless broadband service is something that I have been working to address since becoming Communications Minister,” Naughten said.

This announcement will mean an 86% increase in spectrum capacity to meet the growing demand for mobile and wireless broadband service across rural and urban areas.

“The award of this new spectrum can potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of people and I urge operators to move early in rolling out their service.”

Although the auction was dominated by the main mobile phone companies, one major bidder was rural wireless broadband provider Imagine. It has spent €8.1 million on radio spectrum rights in the provinces – and has spent nothing on buying rights in any of the main Irish cities.

The new system will be used for connecting mobile devices to the internet using part of the super-high frequency 3.6 gigahertz range of the radio spectrum — previously used for radar and military communications.

Signals in the 3.6GHz range can carry lots of information using compact transmitters, which means they’re perfect for mobile broadband coverage.

Introduced in 2008, 3G was the first mobile internet system to be used in smartphones. It could be considered the harbinger of the smartphone era, having been the system used on some of the earliest models of the iPhone.

The current consumer standard in Ireland is 4G, which is offered by all the main mobile phone companies and wireless broadband providers. It allows faster connections and HD video streaming to your phone — as fans of Agriland’s YouTube channel are well aware.

Meanwhile, independent TD Mattie McGrath last month raised concern that the National Broadband Plan would “significantly increase the delays in connecting large parts of rural Ireland to fibre-based connections”.

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