Hutchison 3G Ireland has rubbished rumours that it will roll out commercial 3G services in November, saying that it has yet to confirm any launch date. Some corners of the Irish press claim that Hutch’s UK handset suppliers have been informed that the cellco’s launch date has been put back until November at the earliest, but the company itself says this is ‘pure speculation’. Hutch refused to be drawn on exactly when the launch will take place, saying only that it will have 50% coverage of the country by June and that rollout was ‘on schedule’.
In August 2002 Ireland’s then regulator the ODTR selected Hutchison Whampoa as the winner of its class A UMTS licence auction, ahead of rival bids by Vodafone and O2. Hutch paid EUR50 million for the concession which comes bundled with additional spectrum designed to give the licensee enough frequency to allow MVNOs to operate over its network. The class A licence carries much more stringent rollout targets than the other UMTS concessions, including an obligation to cover 80% of the population by 2007. Hutch launched a trial service in Dublin under the 3 brand name in September 2003, since when it has been offering corporate partners access to services including video mobile calling and multimedia content. In October 2003 it signed a EUR100 million deal with BT for the build and operation of all elements of the its radio access network.