Irish incumbent eircom looks set to receive the country’s last remaining UMTS mobile licence before Christmas, writes Irish online news portal unison.ie. The former monopoly is understood to be putting the final touches to a business plan that would give its mobile arm Meteor Mobile nationwide access to high speed mobile services via network sharing deals with rival operators. Meteor’s CEO Robert Haulbrook told the Irish Independent newspaper that the plan is expected to be completed within a month and that network sharing could involve Vodafone, O2 or 3 Ireland ‘to bring these services to rural Ireland’. Meteor is currently holding talks with other operators and believes that such a move could reduce the cost of rolling out 3G services by 25%, to EUR300 million (USD386.3 million). In addition, the firm is paying the EUR114 million 3G licence cost in instalments.
eircom’s decision to go after the sole remaining UMTS concession follows a ruling by the High Court to uphold an earlier decision by the telecoms regulator, ComReg, to withdraw the licence from troubled alternative operator Smart Telecom. The telco went into meltdown in October 2006, not long after eircom took the decision to cut off 40,000 or so Smart telephone customers in a EUR4 million payment dispute. At the time eircom allegedly declined a request from ComReg that it give Smart customers a suitable period of notice before initiating its plan to formally disconnect its wholesale service with the troubled operator, and announced it would terminate the service by 5pm the same day.