The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton TD and ComReg have signed regulations enabling ComReg to release additional rights of use for radio spectrum on a temporary basis. This move will give mobile network operators flexibility to create extra capacity for mobile phone and broadband services.
As a result of measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a very sharp increase in the use of mobile networks as people rely more heavily on their operators to communicate, use government services and stay connected with family, friends and work.
Mobile networks have coped well with the extra usage, but they currently have less headroom to accommodate further increases or potential spikes in demand.
Minister Bruton said:“Now, more than ever we are depending on technology to connect with others and to access services. These regulations will ensure that our mobile network operators have the capacity to accommodate the increase in demand. I’d like to thank ComReg for responding to this need so quickly.”
The regulations have been made following a consultation paper published on 27 March and the rapid agreement of procedures to deal with a number of technical coordination matters raised in response to the consultation.
ComReg is grateful to stakeholders – Eir, Three, Vodafone and Virgin Media, along with RTÉ and the Irish Aviation Authority – for engaging so rapidly and constructively on these technical matters.
The regulations allow the release of extra radio spectrum in the 700 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands and changed conditions for the use of the 2.1 GHz band so that it can be used for 4G and other technologies, rather than just for 3G.
Operators will be able to apply for temporary licences that run for a maximum of 3 months. Should the current situation continue for longer, holders of temporary licences may apply for a renewal for up to a further 3 months. A nominal fee of €100 per licence will apply. Mobile operators can apply for licences immediately so they can utilise this spectrum as quickly as possible.
ComReg Commissioner, Jeremy Godfrey, said: “The provision of this spectrum will help the mobile providers cater for increased demand on their networks. ComReg will continue to work with industry and will support operators so that telecoms networks may continue to meet demand during these unprecedented times. I wish to pay particular tribute to the dedication and skill of ComReg’s staff in completing such a complicated project with such great professionalism and in such a short time.”