Telefonica of Spain, which owns and operates Ireland’s second largest cellco by subscribers O2, has confirmed plans to upgrade its 3G network later this year, targeting faster data speeds for 250 locations in 14 counties across the Republic. The areas covered under the planned upgrade are: Carlow, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Sligo and Wicklow (14 counties in all). Telefonica is also understood to be planning further 3G upgrades in other areas of Ireland by the end of this year, while simultaneously investing up to EUR200 million (USD261 million) to upgrade its network to support fourth-generation (4G) services over the next three years. The latest CAPEX comes on top of the roughly EUR225 million it spent on securing Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile frequencies at the regulator ComReg’s auction. O2 Ireland intends to commence its 4G network deployment in the second half of this year, launching its first live sites in the autumn.
The news comes in the wake of recent press rumours that Telefonica is looking to sell O2 Ireland after receiving interest from potential bidders. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, people familiar with the situation suggest that the Madrid-based behemoth is working through a number of expressions of interest, including one from Hutchison Whampoa, the Hong Kong-based firm which owns O2 Ireland rival, 3 Ireland. If a deal is struck it is thought it could raise up to EUR700 million, as Telefonica mulls options to trim its debt to under EUR47 billion by the end of this year. To date it has reportedly divested 40% of its Central American assets in treasury stock in 2013.