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Ireland’s mobile phone market is slowing to a crawl.
The growth in the number of Irish customers switching to a new mobile operator has stalled at about 1.5% a year, compared with a 4% increase for the UK.
The trend has been blamed on the introduction of the 4G technology by Apple, which in some cases has been slower than the carrier.
“The fact that 4G is being rolled out in the UK now and is hitting so many people is very, very worrying,” said Patrick Cavanagh, senior analyst at research firm Strategy Analytics.
“This is a major concern for the operators and we’ve been talking about it for a long time, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”
The biggest problem is that the operator can’t keep up with the rapid growth in new customers.
The number of new customers added to Ireland’s network by the end of June was only 2.8 million, according to data from the Irish Mobile Association, which represents companies in the country.
The sector’s main driver of growth has been the expansion of the Irish internet market, where Apple has been making a splash with its iPhones.
It’s hoped the new 4G services will boost sales of Apple’s iPhone, which accounts for more than a quarter of all smartphones sold in Ireland.
“If we can get 4G in the next year, that’s a big boost for the Irish economy,” said Mr Cavanah.
“It’s going to be a great thing for us.”
However, he admitted the carriers are struggling to keep up.
“They’re struggling with the growth,” he said.
“There’s not enough data in the market to say whether or not there’s a benefit or a negative impact from 4G.
They’re very reliant on the carriers to get that data and they’ve got no data.”
The Irish Mobile Associations chief executive, James MacKay, said there was a lack of data in Ireland’s market and operators were relying on carriers to provide data.
“As a result, the market is not in sync,” he told The Irish Sun.
We have a real opportunity to have a much more balanced market, which will lead to a much better overall customer experience.”