Customers of mobile network Three will finally be able to access a 5G service from today with the launch of the operator's new network.

With 35% population coverage from day one, the company claims it will immediately become the country's most extensive 5G network.

It will also become the first 5G mobile provider to offer the service to prepay customers through the use of a €5 add-on in selected plans.

However, Three customers have had to wait a lot longer for access to a 5G network than clients of other mobile operators Eir and Vodafone, who launched their offerings last year.

The telco has dodged any controversy around equipment supplies by using Ericsson rather than Huawei for both the core and radio parts of the network, because the Swedish manufacturer offered the "best deal" Three said.

Three has invested €100m in the build out of the network over the last eight months and intends to spend €100m more each year for the next few years on expanding it.

The Three 5G service will be available in every county at launch and the company intends to add 500 further sites early next year to the 315 already up.

There has been a particular focus in rolling out in Dublin and Cork cities, the company said.

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But it also claims most towns around the country will have a level of coverage because it decided to cater to the demand for connectivity that has been experienced everywhere since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We started our 5G rollout with Ericsson last year, building our network to bring customers in both rural and urban areas the best possible experience of 5G from the very beginning, which includes providing superfast broadband to remote areas in Ireland," said Robert Finnegan, CEO of Three Ireland.

David Hennessy, Three's Chief Technology Officer

A range of handsets will be on offer from Three at launch, including Samsung S20 Ultra, Samsung S20 Plus, Samsung S20 5G, Huawei Mate Xs 5G and Huawei P40 Pro 5G.

It is expected that the new range of 5G Apple iPhone devices will be added in the coming weeks once they are launched and that the operator will have up to 15 5G handsets on offer by Christmas.

Bill pay customers will have 5G included under some plans, while others will have the option of a €5 5G add-on.

The telco, which is the largest carrier of mobile data in this country, is promising speeds of up to 1Gbps, 5-10 times the speeds of current 4G.

Three is Ireland's second largest mobile provider by subscription, trailing Vodafone.