Ireland 5g

From left: John Griffin, head of Ericsson Ireland; and David Hennessy, chief technology officer, Three Ireland.
Three Ireland has turned on its 5G network around the country, offering coverage at certain sites in every county.

Claiming to have Ireland's largest 5G network, the mobile operator has enabled 315 sites for the next generation technology, and plans to add further sites early next year. At launch it has about 35 per cent population coverage, but that will increase with the addition of 500 sites next year.

"What we expect is by the end of next year we will be well in excess of 50 per cent population coverage and growing," said David Hennessy, chief technology officer with Three Ireland. "This is about actually having a very substantive proposition out there for our customers and very substantive service."

Three joins Vodafone and Eir in offering 5G services to customers, but is hoping that its broader offering will appeal to customers. The company is offering 5G packages to bill-pay, business and prepay customers, with some plans including 5G usage and others requiring an add-on, typically costing €5.

Customers will also need a 5G compatible phone to access the next-generation network. Three is launching with five 5G devices but expects to have up to 15 by the end of the year.

The move comes at a time when mobile networks are coming under pressure as more people work from home and rely on mobile data services. Three Ireland's network experienced an outage on Sunday that saw customers experience issues with their data service for several hours before it was resolved.

The shift to 5G could be good news for workers, particularly though who are in more rural areas.

"The connectivity that people need to either work or play from an entertainment perspective has never been as great so if there's anything that can help connectivity, speed, and - if we are talking about gaming - latency people are looking for it. They want to have the ability to have that connectivity and the speed of connectivity that doesn't interfere with their everyday life," said Elaine Carey, chief commercial officer with Three Ireland. "One of our big things is making life better through connectivity and this is one of the main demonstrations of that is the ability now for customers to have the 5g device in every county."

Ms Carey said the changing dynamic in the workplace and remote working has made its strategy of launching 5G in every country and on every customer level "hugely important".

There are a number of benefits to the new generation of mobile technology, with data speeds of up to 1Gbit per second possible. That makes it an average of five to 10 times faster than the typical 4G connection. The technology is also expected to facilitate advances in agriculture, education, healthcare and transport.

"The jump from 3G to 4G was big, but 4G to 5G is equally as big or even bigger," said Mr Hennessy. "It is noticeably better even for basic things like just browsing; the absolute immediacy of everything you touch is noticeable. It's kind of like driving a really good car, you know, it's reactive, it goes fast, you don't wait. People will really see the difference with this."

Three has an annual network investment of more than €100 million. It has partnered with Ericsson to deliver the new network.

"We started our 5G rollout with Ericsson last year, building our network to bring customers in both rural and urban areas the best possible experience of 5G from the very beginning, which includes providing superfast broadband to remote areas in Ireland," said Robert Finnegan, chief executive of Three Ireland and Three UK. "With our nationwide 5G footprint now in place and a variety of 5G enabled devices on the market, we believe now is the right time to launch. Connectivity is vital to our everyday lives, so we wanted to be the first in the country to offer prepay customers as well as bill pay customers a 5G experience. 5G is transforming how we connect, work, are entertained and how we live our lives.

"Having seen what 5G can do and the latency it provides, I am excited to see the economic developments and opportunities this brings to Ireland as we strive to compete in a global environment where connectivity is crucial."