Lowry mobile phone licence comes up for auction again
THE controversial Michael Lowry mobile phone licence -- central to the Moriarty Tribunal for the last decade -- is up for auction again.
Denis O'Brien's Esat won one of the two GSM 900 licences back in 1996. These licences expire early next year. Telecoms regulator Comreg has begun the auction process for the new 15-year licences. It is thought that the licences may raise a minimum of €210m.
The licences are currently held by O2 and Vodafone -- descendants of Denis O'Brien's Esat and eircom's Eircell businesses. Bureaucratic shilly shallying has led to a complex arrangement where the licences are split into seven parts with no bidder allowed to win more than two bits. The minimum price for each chunk is €30m.
This means that a new entrant could come into the Irish market. However, potential candidates are thin on the ground.
Meteor's licence does not expire until 2015 and 3 Ireland has a different type of licence. Tesco Mobile is involved in a piggyback deal on O2's network, with UPC expected to become a mobile player using a similar arrangement. Smart Telecom, which was a bidder in the last round of licences, hit financial difficulties before being bought out.