Eircom's Meteor wins Irish LTE race

Eircom, Ireland's incumbent operator, won the race to be the first to launch LTE service in the country, beating out Vodafone Ireland and O2 Ireland, with service now live via its eMobile and Meteor brands in Dublin, Carlow and Athlone.

Eircom CEO Herb Hribar

Eircom said it is now providing service to 1.2 million customers or almost 30 per cent of the population with an LTE network underpinned by a €330 million ($446 million) investment commitment over five years. The goal is to provide 43 per cent population coverage by the end of the year.

"Using recently acquired 4G spectrum, we have fast tracked our network investment to ensure that we are the first provider to offer customers this significantly improved mobile broadband experience," Eircom CEO Herb Hribar said in a statement.

The Irish Independent noted that the €330 million investment forms part of a €1.3 billion investment project for the operator's wider network. "This is gigantic for us, we can't understate its importance," Hribar told the paper. "We're now leading, not lagging. We've delivered fibre on time and now we're leading the market in delivering next-generation mobile. This gives us credibility, it gives us some of our swagger back."

Eircom said it does not plan to charge a premium for the LTE services, which also will be offered on a free and unlimited basis until March 2014 to allow users to try out the various devices.

Pricing options include Meteor's Smart Essential plan for €49 a month for 3 GB of data and with a subsidised smartphone. Eircom and eMobile will also offer LTE as part of a bundle with fibre services for €69 a month.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent also reported that Vodafone Ireland has won approval from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for a €117 million loan to strengthen its 3G and LTE networks. The paper added that the EIB has also approved a €408 million loan for Vodafone mobile UK for a similar project.

Vodafone Ireland confirmed this week that its LTE services will be available in five cities including Dublin and 26 towns across Ireland before Christmas, with a data-only LTE offering available from mid-October. The operator also said LTE services on smartphones will be available at no extra cost for personal customers on Vodafone Red and Vodafone Super Red and business customers on Red Business and Red Business Super. Prepaid LTE services Vodafone will be available in 2014.

O2 Ireland has said it is piloting LTE services in Dublin, Cork and Galway during September. Previous reports have suggested that Hutchison Whampoa's planned €850 million ($1.13 billion) acquisition of Telefónica's Irish unit have derailed O2 Ireland's plan to launch LTE services in 2013, with services now targeted for 2014.

For more:
- see this Eircom release
- see this Irish Independent article

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