July 20 2018
The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Implementation Group has published its 2018 (Quarter 2) Progress Report which is highlighting the benefits to domestic and business customers that have been delivered by the Taskforce.
Ministers Denis Naughten and Sean Kyne and their officials in the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (DCCAE) and the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD), are driving the implementation of the actions identified by the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. The Group is tasked by Government to develop practical solutions for broadband and mobile phone users experiencing blackspots in coverage and other telecommunications problems, particularly in rural areas.
Since 2017 the Implementation Group of the Taskforce has made significant strides in addressing problems in telecommunications services for customers. To date the Group has delivered:
- more streamlined planning processes and a reduction in associated planning permission costs for commercial operators deploying telecommunications infrastructure;
- the development and introduction of an online system for planning applications standardising a more efficient application process for operators with quicker turnaround timelines;
- the appointment of Broadband Officers in each of the 31 local authorities to act as contact points for both telco operators - to assist in navigating the planning process - and members of the public - to help them identify telecommunications operators that are providing mobile and broadband coverage in their areas.
- new information published by the Commission for Communications Regulations (ComReg) on mobile phone handset sensitivity, enabling consumers to make more informed choices in considering what is the right handset for them;
- a new exemption license scheme to permit the use of mobile phone repeaters so that people experiencing mobile phone reception issues inside their homes, particularly in rural areas, will now be able to purchase, and have installed, a repeater device to improve service;
- ongoing and significant duct building programme of works by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), along Ireland's motorways as well as, repair and upgrading work for the deployment of fibre underground. These ducts will provide the infrastructural 'spine' for the nationwide roll-out of high-speed broadband.
Telco operators have worked hand in hand with the Taskforce since it was established in July 2016, introducing enhancements, such as WiFi calling. They are also actively working closely with the Taskforce to help identify poor coverage areas and to help eliminate such blackspots.
Minister of State Rural Affairs and Natural Resources Sean Kyne said: "Your commitment and willingness to work together is a real strength of this Taskforce. There has been very tangible progress made already this year. Initiatives such as the introduction of a mobile phone repeater regime by ComReg and the identification of coverage blackspots through the mapping project co-ordinated by Local Broadband Officers have the potential to have a transformative effect on those struggling to receive good mobile phone coverage in rural Ireland. These are just a few examples of where the Taskforce is making a significant and important difference to people's experience of mobile phone and broadband services"
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten said: "Your combined achievements to date demonstrate the continuing positive engagement among all stakeholders which is very much appreciated and deserves full recognition."
He urged the group to work through his Department and that of Minister Kyne, to "…ensure continued focus in order to implement the 2018 Work Programme to completion to the benefit of consumers and also the sector, especially in rural areas".
The Minister added "The five-year mobile data traffic forecast report recently published by ComReg, predicting substantial increase in demand for mobile data in Ireland up to 2022, is informing all the work of the Taskforce in expediting improvements across the telco sector. In particular, it will facilitate operators in the improvement of their network planning and it will also help the stakeholders to keep pace with consumer demand for services. The evidence-based approach used by the Taskforce is paying dividends in helping us adopt a very targeted approach so as to best serve consumers across Ireland."
Minister of State Kyne and Minister Naughten confirmed that the Group will put a renewed focus over the coming months on highlighting the specific benefits, which the Taskforce has achieved, to people in their local communities, particularly in rural areas.
The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce 2018 Q2 Progress Report is available here:
Notes to editor:
- The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was established in July 2016 to consult and engage with the telecoms industry to identify solutions to alleviate telecommunications deficits, particularly in rural Ireland, prior to full build and rollout of the network planned under the National Broadband Plan State intervention. DCCAE and DRCD are working closely together, in close collaboration with key stakeholders, to deliver the outputs of the Taskforce. ComReg is also represented on the Group in recognition of its statutory independence as regulator.
- The Taskforce published its final report in December 2016, addressing a wide range of issues impacting on the provision of broadband and mobile services.
- An Implementation Group established in early 2017 is overseeing and reporting on timely implementation of the 40 actions contained in the Taskforce Report, and is facilitating ongoing engagement between all key stakeholders. The Group has also been identifying appropriate new actions. It published its Implementation Review 2017 on 21 February 2018, which also included a 2018 Work Programme of 34 actions for progression.
Q2 2018 Progress Report - Key achievements and ongoing initiatives
- A blackspots pilot project run by the DCCAE and DRCD in conjunction with mobile operators and some local authorities is identifying problem areas and any infrastructure that could be potentially used to improve mobile coverage.
- ComReg has developed a licensing exemption scheme to allow for the use of mobile phone repeaters to help address the issue of indoor mobile coverage, particularly in rural areas.
- Operators continue to implement WiFi calling and other network features and functionality enhancements to improve user experience.
- Each of the 31 local authorities around the country is developing a digital strategy tailored to their area, which will ensure that local authorities are primed to take advantage of high speed broadband coverage over the coming years.
Communications and Stakeholder engagement
- Broadband Officers in each local authority are in continuous dialogue with telecommunications operators to remove obstacles to infrastructure rollout.
- Telecommunications operators regularly present their rollout plans to local authorities at Regional Action Groups meetings which are attended by the Broadband Officers.
- ComReg recently (on 27 April) published a forecast report on mobile data speeds and fixed broadband speeds, to enable consumers to make informed decisions on services best suiting their needs. The Report's findings show that the demand for mobile data in Ireland is estimated to grow at an average of 32% per year up to 2022. These conclusions should be of considerable interest to all in the telecommunications sector.
- The Taskforce National Stakeholder Forum in October 2017 enabled open discussion amongst stakeholders on issues impacting telecommunications infrastructure roll-out and services nationwide. The 2018 Forum is scheduled to take place on 12 October, at the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe.
Planning and Infrastructure
- Removal of development contributions for telecommunications infrastructure will enable infrastructure roll out.
- Completion of revision of Exempted Development Regulations by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government will help accelerate the rollout of 4G services, and facilitate 5G rollout.
- Installation by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) of over 100km of ducting across the national road network has been completed (M7, M8 and part of the N25), with operators able to deploy infrastructure to expand their networks along the route. TII will also now require the installation of ducting on all new road schemes. TII and industry are in active discussion to identify suitable sites on the motorway network for locating telecoms infrastructure. TII has also reduced costs associated with accessing their ducts.
- The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) Monitoring Committee is streamlining interaction between key stakeholders.
- DTTAS also published revised Guidelines for Managing Openings in Public Roads (the Purple Book) in April 2017 and has rolled out training to local authorities and utilities.
- Nearly all (30 of 31) local authorities have migrated to the MapRoad Roadworks Licensing System and work is ongoing to resolve operational aspects of the final local authority.
- ComReg has conducted and published research into handset sensitivity to allow consumers to make informed choices on different handsets.
- ComReg is developing a composite national coverage map to help consumers and businesses choose the network provider best suiting their needs.