Friday 23 February 2018

Comreg eyes €30m broadband spectrum windfall

Irish mobile operators are seeking ways to plan ahead for data growth among users.
Irish mobile operators are seeking ways to plan ahead for data growth among users.

Adrian Weckler Technology Editor

The Government is eyeing a €30m return from the sale of new mobile broadband spectrum.

An expert report commissioned by Ireland's telecoms regulator has recommended a minimum price of €29.9m for telecoms operators to buy the new bandwidth.

Under the DotEcon report's guidance, separate blocks of bandwidth would be sold off, netting at least €30m for government coffers.

The spectrum in question is currently being used by fixed wireless broadband operators in regional and rural areas.

However, the number of customers availing of these services has fallen in recent years and now stands at 27,300.

Comreg, backed up by European authorities, says the spectrum could be put to better use by allowing Ireland's four million smartphone owners to use it for mobile broadband access. Fixed-line operators could also use the spectrum.

"The 3.6GHz band could accommodate a variety of possible uses, including fixed wireless applications, nomadic wireless services, additional capacity for existing mobile operators in high demand locations or even backhaul," said the report.

Irish mobile operators are seeking ways to plan ahead for data growth among users. The amount of data used per person is doubling every 12 months, according to figures from Comreg.

The growth is being fed by a switch to 4G mobile services, which typically deliver between three and ten times the mobile broadband speeds of older 3G services.

Regional fixed wireless operators remain unhappy that the 3.6Ghz spectrum range in question is being redesignated to incorporate other users.

A spokesman for a newly- formed association of fixed wireless operators said that the State, through the telecoms regulator, is denying them "a fair shot" at competing for state-subsidised National Broadband Plan (NBP) contracts.

In response, the Comreg report said it has "no decision-making role in regard to the design of the NBP or the award of any contracts under the NBP".

It also said that it "remains open to consideration" of fixed wireless operators' views about how spectrum award proposals can "better align" with the National Broadband Plan.

Irish Independent

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