'3' Ireland WCDMA / UMTS Network -
'3' Ireland (Hutchinson Whampoa 3G Ireland) is in the middle of completing what appears to be one of the fastest network rollouts ever seen in the mobile world. The network was launched in July 2005 with 60% coverage and currently has 73% coverage across the Republic, covering all the major towns and cities. The network is well ahead of its required coverage target of 85% by mid 2007 (set by Com Reg).
'3' has taken on some very experienced, aggressive partners to construct their network, including Nokia and the NEC / Siemens partnership. The company has no legacy network to manage in Ireland and has had to build its network from the ground-up, enabling it to implement the latest technology.
The company is investing an estimated €240 million in the construction of the network and will be the first company in Ireland to be able to offer subscribers Video Mobile Services (VMS).
Currently '3' also has 99.5% population coverage for voice and text through a national roaming agreement with Vodafone, enabling '3' customers to make use of the Vodafone GSM (2G) network. '3' Ireland's 3G services are not expected to break even until 2015.
CONTRACTORS AND NETWORK
The network is a WCDMA / UMTS 3G network. Siemens Communications and NEC Corporation were awarded a contract for the radio access equipment (UTRAN) for the network in August 2005.
Nokia were awarded a contract to supply the WCDMA 3G core network, IP backbone and a network management system (NetAct). Under another outsourcing contract, '3' has also deployed the services of BT Ireland in the acquisition of mobile station sites and to aid rollout.
NEC and Siemens are supplying Node-B radio base stations and radio network controllers. The implementation of the network equipment from NEC / Siemens will allow '3' Ireland's VMS users to access data speeds of up to 384kbps, which will allow access to next generation data services, including advanced audio, video and interactive gaming services and content.
Nokia are facilitating the fast implementation of the network by providing network planning and design, project management, implementation and integration services. The Nokia design service has provided the required designs and configurations for the circuit switch core, the packet switch core and the IP backbone.
Under the contract NEC will also deliver a large number of units of its point-to-point wireless access system PASOLINK. PASOLINK is a PDH / SDH microwave system and, due to the rapid expansion of mobile networks globally, operators are deploying PASOLINK to connect radio base stations to establish 3G mobile infrastructure more rapidly during a network rollout.
'3' IRELAND SERVICES
'3' has built a new video mobile (3G) network to offer a number of media, information and data services and to enable live video calls, multimedia content and entertainment while on the move.
However the network rollout is not as impressive as it first appears - as is usual with 3G, the company has targeted the population centres first, so though 72% population coverage sounds good, it only allows customers to use 3G in towns and cities. If '3' Ireland did not have a roaming agreement with Vodafone to use GSM, their service would be very limited. They still have a long way to go.
It remains to be seen how far the coverage of the '3' 3G network in Ireland will go. Customers will have to wait until 2007 to see if the required coverage target of 85% will be met or exceeded. In March 2005, '3' announced that it had over 8 million customers worldwide; it has not said how many of these subscribers are in Ireland.