Auction clears way for 4G services
The Communications Regulator has cleared the way for next generation mobile services in Ireland after it announced the results of a spectrum auction that raised more than €850 million.
The auction for the 800MHz, 900Mhz and 1800Mhz spectrum raised almost €482 million in upfront fees, with a further €373 million due in ongoing spectrum usage fees due between 2013 and 2030. That's a boost of around €855 million to the Exchequer in the coming years.
The move means that mobile operators can begin to introduce 4G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) services to the Irish market.
The auction awarded spectrum rights in the GSM bands, 900MHz and 1800MHz, and the spectrum freed up by the analogue switch-off last month on the 800 MHz band.
Meteor, Vodafone and Telefonica Ireland (O2) bought spectrum in the 800 MHz band.
Telefónica Ireland said it would roll out its 4G network in the first half of next year, with faster data speeds and internet connections. The operator paid €125 million for the spectrum licences, which it said represented a long-term commitment to the market.
It also committed a further €200 million in investment over the next three years to upgrade the network to provide the 4G services.
“4G will significantly change the way consumers use their mobile devices and will transform our ability to meet customer demand for new products and services as they move to adopt smartphones, mobile modems and tablets in ever greater numbers,” chief executive Tony Hanway said. “Our plans for 4G will ensure Ireland remains at the leading edge of communications, providing customers with significantly faster data transfer speeds and much faster connections to the internet.”
Rival Vodafone, meanwhile, described its spectrum allocation as “the best possible outcome” for the company’s customers. The company is set to invest more than half a billion euro in its network over the next five years to upgrade the network.
Vodafone promised a fast rollout of the new services, promising services from next year. The company paid almost €161 million in upfront fees.
“This is great news for our customers and demonstrates that, despite challenging economic conditions, we will not compromise on the superior quality of our network,” Vodafone Ireland CEO, Jeroen Hoencamp said. “We now have the best possible combination of available spectrum and work has already commenced on upgrading our network nationwide.
Our customers have access currently to the fastest data network and from next year, they will experience the next generation of mobile technology, 4G.”
Three Ireland paid the lowest price for its portfolio of spectrum, which will double its current holding. The company, which does not support the legacy GSM network unlike the other operators in the market, paid €51.14 million.
The additional spectrum will allow 3 to boost its coverage in rural areas and across the country, both indoor and outdoor.
“ This result will enable the roll-out of new technologies such as LTE with speeds of up to 180 Mbps but also allows us to continue to invest in our network going forward,” chief executive Robert Finnegan said.
Eircom, which owns Meteor and eMobile, said its package included two blocks of 800Mhz, two of 900Mhz and three on the 1800Mhz band, for a total of €145 million.
Chief executive Herb Hribar said it was a great step forward for the group.
“We will now support super fast mobile broadband, data and voice services for customers across urban and rural Ireland,” he said. “Together with our fibre rollout, investment in LTE services, network investment is a critical pillar supporting the Government’s broadband vision and is fully aligned with the national agenda for economic recovery.”
The company expects to begin work immediately to use the new spectrum and roll our services within the next 12 months.