Telecoms regulator Comreg has welcomed the launch of Ireland's newest mobile phone operator, iD Mobile, but said it has an open mind about whether or not it will improve competition in the market.
Commissioner Gerry Fahy said any increase in competition is good for consumers and iD Mobile's arrival is another step along the road back to the level of competition that was present prior to Three Ireland's takeover of O2.
He said Comreg will watch to see how things play out over the coming months following the launch, and will maintain an open mind about the competitive situation in the market.
Comreg previously expressed concerns about whether the conditions attached to the EU's approval of the Three Ireland takeover of O2 would be enough to ensure a competitive market into the future.
Those conditions included Three having to make available some of its radio network capacity to two Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) to offer new services here.
Now that it has launched, Mr Fahy said it was important that the impact of the first of those MVNOs, iD Mobile, is sustained, has strong momentum and is not just a short term event.
He said so far MVNOs have not had a strong impact on the market here.
But he said the conditions attached by the EU to the Three takeover of O2 are a novel new form of agreement and it will be interesting to see if it has a different dynamic and allows MVNOs to more aggressive and competitive.
iD Mobile is owned by the Dixons Carphone group and its entry into the Irish market could lead to lower prices for consumers.
The company is a MVNO, which means it does not have its own network but uses another operator's instead.
iD Mobile will be using Three Ireland's network, although it has also installed a considerable amount of new infrastructure of its own, which it says will enable it to better innovate.
As part of its approval of Three's takeover of O2 last year, the EU instructed the Hutchinson Whampoa-owned business to make some of its mobile network capacity available to two other MVNOs.
Three subsequently agreed a deal with the Dixons Carphone Group, which operates the Carphone Warehouse chain, and with UPC, which is expected to launch its mobile offering later this year.
iD Mobile is aiming to secure 6% of the market within five years, representing around 300,000 customers.
In particular it is targeting three distinct segments of the market - young independent people aged 25-34 who are confident with technology and primarily use bill pay services; established families who may have multiple devices paid for by parents and who want control over the cost; and "empty nesters", whose children have left home.
The company says its market research is telling it that customers here want greater flexibility in their mobile plans.
As a result it has opted for a pricing system that allows the customer to pick from a range of handsets which can be partly paid for upfront, or entirely over a period ranging from 12 to 24 months.
Handsets can also be traded in, in order to reduce the monthly price plan cost.
Customers will then be able to choose from a menu of options in order to build their own personalised voice, data and text tarrif and can alter those options at any point through the iD Mobile website, app or customer service centres.
The handset and service costs are split from each other, meaning bill pay customers won't have to commit to a traditional contract and once their handset is paid off, their monthly bill should fall.
The company will also offer 4G for all data at no extra cost. However, there is no unlimited data option with the upper limit for those that choose it being 20GB per month.
There will be no roaming packages initially, but the company says its roaming prices will be competitive with the market.
iD Mobile will have 12 retail outlets in Harvey Norman stores, and the service will also be sold through the 78 Carphone Warehouse shops around the country, as well as Carphone Warehouse and iD Mobile's websites.
It will offer around 20 handsets at launch, the majority of which will be 4G, although the Apple iPhone will not be initially available.
Market analysts and competitors will be closely watching the launch of iD Mobile and the expected launch by UPC of its mobile offering in the coming months, to see if they have a positive impact on competition in the market here.
At the time that the EU gave approval for Three Ireland's takeover of O2, both communications regulator Comreg and rival Vodafone expressed concern that the conditions attached to the approval were not strong enough to ensure competition was maintained in the marketplace.