Three Ireland, which reported a 22 per cent rise in earnings on Thursday, is close to selecting a network partner to help it build out a nationwide 5G network. The mobile operator plans to begin offering 5G services in the first quarter of next year, according to its chief executive, Robert Finnegan.
Mr Finnegan spoke to The Irish Times after interim results released in Hong Kong by its parent, CK Hutchison Holdings, revealed a jump in contract customer numbers and stringent cost control helped its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) rise to €94 million in the six months to the end of June.
The rise in earnings came despite an €8 million, or 3 per cent, fall in revenues to €290 million, which Three partially blamed on cuts in European roaming charges that “more than offset” any benefit to the company of its recently changed price plans.
The fall in “service revenues”, effectively call charges, was higher at 6 per cent, but the blow was cushioned by increased sales of handsets, as Three boosted its active customer base with 80,000 new subscribers, bringing the total to 2.1 million.
The parent group in Hong Kong noted the “disciplined spending” approach of local management. Operational costs at Three Ireland were down 11 per cent, it said. The company accelerated capital expenditure to €62 million from €46 million, as Three continues to invest in its network.
Data roaming traffic
Data traffic on Three Ireland’s network during the six months was up 50 per cent while its data roaming traffic almost quadrupled, the company said.
Mr Finnegan welcomed the interim results as a “solid performance”. He promised that the group would continue to invest in an “ambitious network investment programme”.
“Our focus now is on planning the rollout of a 5G network that will deliver super-fast broadband to homes and businesses all over Ireland at lower costs than traditional fibre,” said Mr Finnegan.
He declined to say how many potential partners had tendered to help it build its 5G network, but said the selection process was almost complete.
He also declined to comment directly on the difficulties facing the State’s National Broadband Plan to deliver fibre to rural homes, which is down to one bidding consortium. He said, however, that he believed 5G could “play a part” in delivering internet services to rural homes. Three did not bid for the NBP.
Mr Finnegan said Three remained interested in making acquisitions in the Irish market, in the wider communications industry space, and highlighted that its parent had a cash pile of $18 billion.
“If the right deals were to come along, we would have a look,” he said.