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Greater uptake of 5G phones forecast in final quarter of year

Eir network provides over 70% population coverage, including 352 towns and cities across every county

Just six months ago Swedish telecoms equipment manufacturer Ericsson, which competes with companies such as China’s Huawei and Finland’s Nokia, identified lacklustre consumer interest in 5G smartphones, at least in Ireland.

According to its survey, while more than one-fifth of mobile phone owners here had a 5G enabled phone, just 4 per cent had signed up to a 5G plan.

The final quarter of this year looks set to move the dial on that significantly. Last month telecom provider Eir announced that, with immediate effect, 5G would be automatically enabled on suitable mobile plans, at no extra cost to customers.

A first for the Irish market, it meant Eir mobile customers could all of a sudden, without having to do anything, use the data on their plans to access the company’s extensive 5G network. That means speeds of up to 10 times faster than 4G, turbo-charging the streaming of high-definition content without buffering, low-latency gaming and video calling, as well as enhanced reliability and capacity for businesses reliant on online tools and services.

In addition to the introduction of 5G across all Eir mobile plans, its customers can now also avail of 5G roaming in 22 countries across Europe, Asia, Canada and the Middle East.

Its 5G network provides more than 70 per cent population coverage, including 352 towns and cities across every county.

While Eir launched its first 5G phones in the run-up to Christmas 2019, the technology was too new to make a significant impact. It was only available initially on Android phones such as Samsung and Sony. Soon after that, the pandemic hit.

‘5G Christmas’

It wasn’t until last year that iPhone launched its 5G phones, which provided a significant boost to sales. This Christmas however “is going to be the 5G Christmas”, says Susan Brady, Eir’s consumer managing director.

She predicts that the majority of phones bought this Christmas – a peak sales season – will be 5G ones, with more than 80 per cent of bill-pay phones in particular likely to be 5G sets. “These will be available across the full range of price points, from €150 to whatever you want to spend. I’m telling everyone to shop early too because, as with any tech product right now, the risk is of supply issues later on,” she points out.

Though while awareness is growing fast, her experience suggests that there are 5G phone owners out there who do not realise their phone is already 5G enabled, including holders of phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 or S21, or iPhone 12 or 13.

For others keen to upgrade to 5G services, the purchase of a new phone will be required. “You do need to get a 5G handset and you do need your network to provide a 5G service for you,” she explains.

Eir customers can access 5G with Sim-only plans from ¤9.99 a month, including no limits 5G data, unlimited calls and unlimited texts. Eir’s 5G service is available to Eir customers on a range of 5G compatible devices including the new iPhone 13 and Samsung’s Galaxy Flip 3, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S21, the OPPO Find X3 Neo and more.

Prepay customers have access to its 5G network too, at no extra cost. The 5G prepay handsets are available from €129.99 when switching to Eir, with no limits 5G data is available from €20.

The company’s 5G network is complemented by a 4G network which is available to more than 99 per cent of the geography of Ireland. It means that if you are using a 5G phone in an area that doesn’t have 5G coverage, the connection will automatically move on to Eir’s 4G network.

“Increased speed and lower latency means whole films downloaded in a second, it means gaming on the bus, it means no data restrictions in crowded places – you’ll be able to stream live from a crowded concert, for example,” she explains.

The 5G development is the key to all sorts of innovations, from automated factories to smart cities to virtual and augmented reality. “Right now 5G is the phone in your pocket but what it really is, is a whole new world of possibility,” says Brady.

“We don’t yet know what apps are going to be developed for 5G. If you think of it, we didn’t know what TikTok was two years ago. What we will start to see come through now are more brand new apps that no one even thought about.”

“Increased speed and lower latency means whole films downloaded in a second, it means gaming on the bus, it means no data restrictions in crowded places – you’ll be able to stream live from a crowded concert, for example,” she explains.

The 5G development is the key to all sorts of innovations, from automated factories to smart cities to virtual and augmented reality. “Right now 5G is the phone in your pocket but what it really is, is a whole new world of possibility,” says Brady.

“We don’t yet know what apps are going to be developed for 5G. If you think of it, we didn’t know what TikTok was two years ago. What we will start to see come through now are more brand new apps that no one even thought about.”