Irish sports broadcaster Setanta is in talks with mobile operator 3 about launching an MVNO on its network, it emerged this week.

The companies have been holding talks for the past few months and Setanta aims to launch its mobile service by the end of the year, the Irish Times reported, without citing its sources. The MVNO would form part of a service package that Setanta is working on, including TV, phone and mobile broadband, the paper added.

Ireland is set to become home to a vibrant mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) market.

Last month the local press reported that 3 Ireland is also holding talks with Carphone Warehouse, which plans to launch an MVNO under the brand name Talkmobile. And in May cable operator UPC brokered a deal with 3 that will see it launch as an MVNO in 2015.

This recent spate of MVNO action stems from 3 Ireland's €850 million acquisition of rival O2.

The deal, which was agreed a year ago, got the go-ahead from the European Commission in May, albeit with a series of conditions attached designed to protect competition; the merger of 3 and O2 reduces the number of mobile network operators in Ireland to three from four.

3 agreed to reserve up to 30% of its network capacity to facilitate the launch of two mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), one of which will have the option to become a full mobile operator by acquiring spectrum at a later date. 3 has committed to selling off five blocks of spectrum in the 900-MHz, 1800-MHz and 2.1-GHz bands to make this happen.

In the meantime, the MVNOs will obtain a fixed amount of bandwidth from 3, rather than buying capacity on a pay-as-you-go basis. The Commission believes this will incentivise them to offer attractive prices and innovative services in order to fill up their bandwidth.

As a result, "the two MVNOs that enter in Ireland in the short term will be able to replace the competitive force that 3 exercised previously," the Commission said.