Irish mobile operators to pay €78m in 5G spectrum auction
Five Irish mobile operators will pay €78m between them in the State's latest spectrum auction.
Vodafone, 3 Ireland, Meteor, Imagine and Airspan will pay €57m upfront and a further €21m over a 15-year licensing period for the right to use parts of the 3.6Ghz spectrum band, seen as critical for 5G mobile services.
The cash will be collected by telecoms regulator Comreg on behalf of the State.
5G mobile services are expected to be introduced in Ireland around 2020, promising speeds equivalent to fibre broadband and the ability to connect millions of autonomous machines such as self-driving cars.
Vodafone will pay the highest price for the spectrum, handing over €23m, with 3 Ireland due to pay €20m. Meteor has committed to €16m in fees while Sean Bolger's Imagine will pay €10m. A new entrant to the market, Airspan, will pay €10m. Airspan is the UK arm of a US global provider of 4G broadband wireless systems and services. Its products are targeted at operators for markets such as smart utilities, transportation and public safety.
Previously, the 3.6Ghz spectrum band has been used 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.
"The result of the 3.6 GHz award represents a very good outcome for consumers, service providers and ComReg," said Comreg chairman Gerry Fahy.
Communications Minister Denis Naughten also welcomed the auction results.
"This is hugely significant, particularly for people in rural Ireland," he said. "It means an 86pc increase in spectrum capacity to meet the growing demand for mobile and wireless broadband across rural and urban areas."