Three Ireland yet to pick 5G supplier as rivals build

The country’s second-largest mobile operator has announced an 18pc increase in earnings before interest, tax and depreciation for 2018 but a 2pc fall in revenue over the same period.

Three Ireland also says that it is finally close to finishing its integration of the O2 network it bought in 2014, which has resulted in ongoing disruption to services.

“We are now exiting our integration phase with the lowest churn in the market,” said chief executive Robert Finnegan.

“This year we’re focused on building on 2018’s market share growth and completing our digital transformation, as well as trialling 5G in the coming months, with roll-out commencing later this year.

Figures from Ireland’s communications regulator, Comreg, show that Three has 32.2pc of the mobile market, growing 0.4pc in the last year. This compares to 36.1pc for Vodafone and 19.8pc for Eir. Tesco Mobile is the only other major player, with 8.1pc.

However, Three Ireland has achieved extra growth from its mobile broadband division, helping it increase its market share by almost 1pc to 35.1pc in the last year.

The company claims that it carries more mobile data “than all other operators combined” and that it has increased its “active” customer base to 2.2 million, a 7pc rise.

Despite Mr Finnegan’s promise of a 5G rollout later this year, the operator has not yet picked its core network provider, according to the firm.

Three Ireland is said to be in discussions with potential suppliers. Huawei and Ericsson are two of the largest 5G infrastructure firms supplying Irish operators, with Vodafone and Eir both choosing Ericsson as a ‘core’ 5G network.

Both Vodafone and Eir have begun advanced planning for 5G services in Ireland with Vodafone extending a test network area in Dublin last week.

US authorities have criticised the deployment of Huawei networking equipment for 5G, arguing that the firm is too close to Chinese authorities and represents a security risk.

However, European countries have mostly rejected the criticism, with Britain, Germany and others proceeding with Huawei-built networks.

“These full-year results are in line with our expectations and demonstrate a strong performance for 2018 with an 18pc and 6pc increase in EBITDA and EBIT on the back of a 7pc increase in our customer base,” said Mr Finnegan.

“During the year we continued to invest heavily in our network to further enhance our customers’ experience with capital expenditure of €118m.”

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