Tuesday 25 July 2017

Irish operators pay €78m for 5G mobile spectrum

Five Irish mobile operators have paid €57m between them in the state’s latest spectrum auction.
Five Irish mobile operators have paid €57m between them in the state’s latest spectrum auction.
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Five Irish mobile operators have paid €57m between them in the state’s latest spectrum auction.

Vodafone, 3 Ireland, Meteor, Imagine and Airspan will pay a further €21m over a 15 year licensing period, bringing the total amount raised by telecoms regulator Comreg to €78m.

Comreg says that the 3.6Ghz can be used for some 5G mobile services. However, 5G is not expected to be launched in Ireland until 2021.

The 3.6Ghz band has been used mainly by wireless mobile operators in Ireland. Comreg re-auctioned the band to facilitate more capacity for mobile operators and other broadband companies.

Figures show that the average phone user’s data usage is almost doubling each year. Mobile operators need to seek more capacity with rapid growth in mobile video consumption expected to continue.

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Vodafone will pay the highest price for the spectrum, handing over €23m for 85 MHz in rural regions and 105 MHz in the cities.

Next comes 3 Ireland, which will pay €20m for 100Mhz on a national basis.

Meteor has committed to €16m for 80 MHz in the rural regions and 85 MHz in the cities.

Imagine, which is currently the country’s largest wireless broadband operator, will pay €10m for 60 MHz in each of four rural regions assigned in the auction.

A new entrant to the market, Airspan, will also pay €10m for 25 MHz in the rural regions and 60 MHz in cities. Airspan is the UK arm of a US global provider of 4G broadband wireless systems and solutions. Airspan's products serve operators and markets such as smart utilities, transportation and public safety in both licensed and licence-exempt frequency bands.

“The result of the 3.6 GHz award represents a very good outcome for consumers, service providers and ComReg,” said Comreg chairman Gerry Fahy.

“All 350 MHz of available spectrum, across the entire country, has been assigned at an important time as demand for wireless communications services continues to grow. Continuity for existing services has been underpinned and the possibility of new services has been significantly enhanced. In particular the characteristics of this band, coupled with its 5G potential, should ensure Ireland is well positioned to benefit from new technology and service enhancements in the years to come.”

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Some of the winning bidders have welcomed the auction results.

“Three wanted to secure 100MHz of 5G spectrum nationally and not to differentiate between rural and urban areas,” said Robert Finnegan, chief executive of 3 Ireland. “We are delighted that we are the only bidder that was able to achieve that. We had two objectives going into this auction. First, we wanted to ensure that those living outside main city areas could enjoy the same service as urban dwellers, by securing uniform spectrum frequency for all rural and urban areas. Secondly, we wanted this uniform spectrum to be 100MHz as this is the recognised optimum bandwidth for 5G and is internationally recommended to support 5G in spectrum bands below 6GHz.

“It was also imperative that we get the best value for money and we are pleased to see from today’s publication that we were successful in achieving this, paying the lowest price for a full national 5G capability across the country.  This will allow us to invest more in the deployment of 5G technology and deliver the best service to our customers.”

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