Fixed line operators tipped for 3G licence

20 Jun 2005

Irish fixed line operator Smart Telecom has confirmed it will be applying for Ireland’s fourth 3G licence. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) said on Friday that it had received a formal expression of interest for the country’s only unused 3G mobile concession, but has not named the interested party. Now that an expression of interest has been made ComReg is inviting further interested parties to submit their own applications in writing by July 17, after which it will conduct a comparative evaluation process.

‘It’s always been our strategy to go for the 3G licence,’ Smart Telecom COO Ciaran Casey told Dow Jones Newswires. ‘We’ve been talking to the regulator about this over the last number of months.’ Smart is expected to face competition from rival fixed line operator eircom. The incumbent exited the mobile market in 2001 with the sale of its wireless business to Vodafone, but earlier this month the telco’s chief executive Philip Nolan confirmed that the company was looking at ways of re-entering the sector. It was widely believed that eircom was mulling a takeover of the country’s smallest cellco, Meteor Mobile, but a number of Irish analysts now say that it will bid for the 3G licence and roll out its own network rather than pay upwards of EUR400 million to take control of Meteor. Meteor, for its part, has said it is not looking for 3G frequencies to complement its existing 2G services.

Three of the country’s four concessions – two ‘B’ licences and one ‘A’ licence with additional spectrum– were originally auctioned off in 2002, but the final ‘B’ licence has remained unsold. Hutchison Whampoa holds the country’s sole A licence, while O2 Ireland and Vodafone Ireland possess B licences.

Ireland, eir