Mobile Phone & Broadband Taskforce
In July 2016, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment – Denis Naughten and Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs – Heather Humphreys established the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce.
The goal of the Taskforce was to identify immediate solutions to broadband/mobile phone coverage deficits and to investigate how better services could be provide to consumers prior to full build and rollout of the network planned under the National Broadband Plan.
ComReg as independent Regulator had identified similar issues through the development of its Radio Spectrum Management Strategy Statement 2016 – 2018 and its consultation on its Strategy Statement for Electronic Communications for 2017 – 2019, which formed the basis of its inputs to the Taskforce. A Taskforce report was published in December 2016 and included 40 recommendations and actions associated with Departments, Agencies, Local Authorities, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and industry providers. The recommendations correlated highly with the actions identified by ComReg through its strategic analysis and ComReg thereby undertook several action areas which supported the objectives of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. The Taskforce Implementation Review 2017 included the 2018 Work Programme which carried forward actions from 2017 and included a number of new actions making a total of 34.
ComReg’s key action areas for 2017 and 2018:
- ComReg published technical reports on the testing of mobile handsets for voice and data performance (see ComReg Doc No 18/05, ComReg Doc No 18/78, ComReg Doc No 18/82 and 18/84, ComReg Doc No 18/109 and ComReg Doc No 19/67). ComReg intends to continue to measure the performance of new makes and models of mobile handsets that become available on the Irish market for voice and data, and to publish such measurements as they become available to allow consumers to make informed choices about the level of signal they can expect from different handsets
- ComReg generated and published online a composite national coverage map, to help consumers choose the network provider that best meets their needs for where they live and work. ComReg’s Outdoor Mobile Coverage Map (see media release and ComReg Doc No 19/07) was published in February 2019
- In line with provisions in respect of contracts and transparency under the existing Universal Services Regulations, ComReg issued a request to industry to publish a set of frequently asked consumer questions (FAQs) and provided a link on its website to mobile contract transparency FAQs for operators. ComReg Compare, ComReg’s value comparison tool, includes the ability to view packages by the total cost or average monthly cost and handset costs are also listed.
- ComReg consulted on complaint handling procedures and published a Decision on the minimum requirements for ECS providers’ codes of practice for complaint handling (see ComReg Doc No D04/17) and Formal Dispute Resolution Procedures for ECS/ECN end-users (see ComReg Doc No D14/18) and publishes quarterly ComReg Consumer Line mobile coverage statistics
- As part of its normal course of Consultation on Spectrum matters ComReg produced and published a five year forecast of mobile data traffic forecast in Ireland (see ComReg Doc No 18/35)
- ComReg published a Decision to permit the use of mobile phone repeaters (see ComReg Doc No D08/18 and Mobile Repeater website page) and a technical report on the effect of building materials on indoor mobile performance (see ComReg Doc No 18/73) to help address the issue of indoor coverage, particularly in rural areas
Key elements are depicted in the infographic in ComReg’s consumer news item on the factors that may affect consumers’ quality of mobile experience.
The Taskforce Implementation Review 2018 included the 2019 Work Programme which identified 35 new actions.
ComReg’s key action areas for 2019:
- ComReg continued to provide and promote information for consumers through ComReg’s Consumer Engagement programme, including through its consumer website, outreach programme and targeted public awareness campaigns through multi-channels
- ComReg published updated data from the mobile operators. ComReg had developed an outdoor mobile coverage map mobile app and is preparing for release with further enhancements planned
- ComReg’s market surveillance team continued to proactively monitor the release of unlicensed equipment into the State through preventive means and with the cooperation of various stakeholders including online selling platforms. Additionally, ComReg established the SII Forum
- ComReg continued to conduct appropriate research including mobile and broadband consumer confidence surveys and published its 2nd mobile consumer experience survey, a national survey of Irish mobile phone user experiences and perceptions. ComReg continued to engage with stakeholders to deepen its understanding of the mobile consumer experience
In addition to these action areas, it is envisioned that the release of the 3.6GHz spectrum award in 2017, coupled with the future release of the 700MHz band, increasing the spectrum assigned to terrestrial mobile service by almost 200%, will be instrumental in meeting the societal demand for mobile data and the provisioning of both wide area and indoor coverage, across the State.
ComReg’s Radio Spectrum Management Strategy Statement 2019 to 2021 has since been published in addition to ComReg’s ECS Strategy Statement 2019-2021, which also acts as a midterm review of its Five Year ECS Strategy published in 2017.
If you would like some more information on all the objectives and scope of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, please visit the DECC’s (Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications) website.