The Programme for a Partnership Government gave a commitment to establish a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to identify immediate solutions to broadband/mobile phone coverage deficits and to investigate how better services could be provided to consumers prior to full build and rollout of the network planned under the National Broadband Plan State intervention (NBP).
The digital sector plays a vital role in the economy in Ireland. It is currently worth €12 billion annually and employs approximately 120,000 people. In this context, the Government identified the need for the Taskforce to examine solutions to address broadband/mobile phone coverage deficits and to identify tangible actions that can be taken to improve the quality of broadband and mobile voice services being provided to citizens across Ireland.
The Taskforce report, published on December 20 2016, outlines the issues considered and sets out its recommendations and actions to alleviate barriers to mobile reception and broadband access. The Taskforce recognises that there has been significant progress made to date in this area and that a number of the actions are already in the process of being brought to fruition. However, significant coverage gaps remain which the Taskforce believe can be somewhat mitigated through the timely implementation of the actions contained in the final report.
Please see also the Implementation Programme on Mobile Phone and Broadband Access, which identifies 19 of the 40 actions contained in the Report of the Taskforce as areas where immediate and direct action by Government Departments and State Agencies can ensure accelerated benefits to consumers.
Quarterly reports on progress in implementing the Taskforce actions will be published.
View Progress Reports
Some key measures which have been progressed recently – i.e. Quarter 2 include for:
- Telecoms operators have put in place nominated points of contact within their organisations. In conjunction with the Broadband Officers appointed by all local authorities, these structures are streamlining and improving engagement and assisting in removing impediments to the rollout of telecoms infrastructure.
- Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the telecoms industry have been working closely on identifying suitable sites on the motorway network for the locating of telecoms infrastructure in order to improve mobile coverage.
- The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) has published the latest version of the Guidelines for Managing Openings in Public Roads (Purple Book). The revised guidelines will assist in improving the future management by local authorities, of road works required to support telecommunications infrastructure and utility providers.
- DTTAS has established a Road Openings Monitoring Committee which will play a strong role in overseeing the road opening licensing system, in addition to addressing wider issues impacting on the rollout of telecommunications infrastructure and utility works.
- The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) and the Department of Rural and Community Development are working with mobile operators and a number of local authorities on a pilot project to identify specific mobile phone blackspots areas, ascertain why these issues are arising, and identify solutions to improve the coverage in the area.
- Transport Infrastructure Ireland has completed works on the installation of ducting on the N25 in Cork between Little Island and Middleton totalling 13km, and works on the remaining parts of the route are ongoing. This will enable telecoms operators to install necessary equipment to facilitate the rollout of telecommunication services.
- ComReg is undertaking research on the feasibility of using and licensing mobile phone repeaters to overcome the problem of poor indoor signal quality, particularly in rural areas.
- ComReg is also working on compiling a five year forecast report which will provide information on mobile data volumes and speeds and fixed broadband connections and speeds. This information will enable better network planning by operators to ensure they keep pace with consumer demand for services.
- Progressing the recommendations of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce will expedite the rollout of required infrastructure and the delivery of mobile phone and broadband services, particularly in rural Ireland. The delivery of reliable high speed broadband and mobile services will support employment and cost competitiveness in existing businesses and enable the formation of new business ventures.