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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

Mobile operators pay €855 million in auction for new spectrum space

The funding, half of which will be paid incrementally over the next 18 years, partially comes from the analogue switchoff.

Image: Polryaz via Shutterstock

IRELAND’S FOUR MOBILE phone operators are to pay almost €855 million to rent new space in Ireland’s communications spectrum – including sufficient space to offer high-speed mobile broadband coverage to most Irish users.

The four operators – Vodafone, o2, Meteor and 3 – have paid €482 million up front, and will pay the remainder in annual instalments until 2030.

Ireland’s communications regulator ComReg, announcing the results of the auction, said the remaining €373 million would be adjusted for inflation.

Space at three spectrum bands – at 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz – was sold in the auction. The space in the former 800 MHz band only became available through the closure of analogue TV broadcasts last month.

All three of the spectrum bands are considered suitable for the provision of mobile services as they have a broad geographical coverage and can penetrate walls.

ComReg said the release of 140 MHz of ‘paired spectrum’ (space to carry data both to and from mobile devices) more than doubled the space currently assigned to high-data bands, meaning operators could “usher in a new era of advanced wireless services including fast, high capacity mobile broadband”.

Ready for the ‘next generation’

Its chairman Alex Chisholm said the award of the licences was “a vital step that promotes competition and allows the next generation of advanced mobile services to be made available to Irish consumers and businesses from next year”.

He added that the spectrum being provided to operators was “being provided in a technology-neutral manner and will allow winning operators to provide innovative services using the latest mobile technologies, including LTE” – the formal name for high-speed mobile broadband services.

The rules of the auction require operators to use the networks to cater to at least 70 per cent of the population, and to reach this target within three years. Operators will also be required to limit any network downtime to less than 35 minutes in any six-month period.

The first €482 million sum is payable to ComReg on demand; the regulator will then forward the funds to the Exchequer.

Vodafone has paid the most for its share of the spectrum; its upfront contribution is almost €161 million, while Meteor’s is €145 million. O2 will pay just under €125 million, while 3 will pay just over €51 million up front.

Read: What are they doing with that analogue space?

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