Telecom company 3 has been chosen by the Government to deliver 3G wireless broadband to parts of Ireland that are currently underserved.

The decision follows a tender process as part of the Department of Communications' National Broadband Scheme.

3 will use its 3G (HSDPA) broadband solution which can reach 7.2 Mbit/s under ideal conditions, but critics say it can be as slow as dial-up.

3G broadband is also contended which means it slows down if a large number of users attempt to share the same signal.

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan said the availability of broadband in Ireland will be 'central to our economic recovery.'

Delayed Rollout

The department estimates that about 10% of the country remains without a broadband service. It says the scheme, which involves a Government subsidy, will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in these areas are met.

The contract with 3 will be finalised in the coming weeks, but the project's timeline and scope is still unclear.

During a Dáil debate last month, Fine Gael's Simon Coveney challenged the Government's target for universal broadband by the end of 2009.

'If contracts are being signed in November and if there is a 22-month roll-out period, can we safely assume that the Government target for universal broadband provision across the country will now be the end of 2010 rather than the end of 2009?' Mr Coveney asked Minister Ryan.

'The National Broadband Scheme has taken slightly longer than we would have liked,' the Minister replied.

'My hope is that the detailed work that has gone into the preparation of the contract in advance... ...will mean we will have swift roll-out and delivery on the commitment within it by mid-2010, which is the rough timeline set out.'

Click here to read their entire debate

Eircom, the only other bidder for the Scheme, said it was 'extremely disappointed' not to be awarded the contract, but remained committed to delivering broadband to as many parts of the country as possible.