Other Questions. - Mobile Telephone Licences.

Batt O'Keeffe

Question:

17 Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications when the third mobile phone licence will be placed on offer. [1961/97]

Due to radio frequency spectrum constraints it is not possible for the present to award a third licence for the provision of GSM-900 mobile telephony. However, to conform to Commission Directive 96/2/EC of 16 January 1996 for mobile and personal communications, Ireland is obliged to allocate licences for mobile systems operating according to the DCS-1800 standard before 1 January 1998 at the latest.

I intend to meet this deadline. The selection process will fall to the Telecommunications Regular who will be appointed shortly under the Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1996.

Because a formal complaint has been lodged with the European Commission by Persona, would the Minister agree that this directive is a direct consequence of the lack of transparency in the issuing of the GSM licence and that the Department was forced into this as a result of the lack of transparency?

This directive has nothing to do with any alleged lack of transparency in regard to the licence that has already issued. It is a directive of 16 January 1996 for mobile and personal communications. There is no lack of transparency except in the minds of those who are so blind that they do not want to see.

There is a formal complaint by Persona.

I am happy to tell the Deputy that in the past couple of days I have been informed by the Commission that it has closed the file on the Persona objection and does not intend to take any action on foot of it.

One of the major complaints about the issuing of the last licence was that the criteria were not as clear-out as they might have been. It is hoped that standard criteria might be laid down for all companies interested in tendering for this licence. On this occasion, will the Minister make it clear what criteria will have to be attained by each of the companies that will tender for this licence?

The licence will be awarded on foot of a competitive application process. That process will be within the ambit of the Telecommunications Regulator. I am quite sure that the competition will be conducted on the basis of criteria which will be as clear and as well understood as those which applied to the last competition. None of the applicants in that competition had any difficulty whatever in understanding what the competition was about.

Then why was a formal complaint lodged with the European Commission?

Some of them seem to have difficulty with the fact that they were not successful.