Kilkenny is to be the first place in Ireland where Vodafone will offer a fourth generation (4G) mobile service.

The company has said it hopes to go live with its 4G network in the city in the autumn, although it was not able to say precisely when.

Following the initial switch on, the service will then be rolled out in other cities including Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

The telecom operator is currently in the process of setting up and testing its 4G service in a number of locations in Dublin and elsewhere, although it is not yet open to customers.

As part of the process of preparing for 4G, Vodafone is currently engaged in upgrading its rural 2G network so that voice customers in those areas can download and upload data on the 3G network.

Today it switched on three new UMTS sites in north Donegal, which will allow for faster connection speeds. It will follow those upgrades with a similar rollout in Waterford and the southeast later this month.

New Vodafone Ireland boss, Anne O'Leary, said the idea was to give the growing number of people with smartphones access to 3G capabilities before rolling out 4G services which, in most cases, would require people to buy new handsets.

The company has also announced the opening of its new Enterprise Customer Solutions division, into which it has invested almost €25 million in the last two years to expand its fixed telephony services.

The division will be responsible for designing, delivering and supporting telecom services for business customers.