Five mobile operators have been awarded space on the 3.6GHz spectrum, a move that enhances the State’s wireless broadband capacity and paves the way for the arrival of 5G, which is expected here in 2021.
This follows a competitive auction process overseen by regulator Comreg. The winning bidders – Imagine, Vodafone, Three Ireland, Meteor and new market entrant Airspan – will jointly pay about €78 million for 15-year licences, comprising €60.5 million in upfront fees and €17.7 million in spectrum usage fees, Comreg said.
The 3.6GHz band is currently used for the provision of fixed wireless services to about 25,000 customers mainly in rural areas.
The spectrum was offered in 594 lots spread over nine regions, four rural and five urban.
According to Comreg, Vodafone will shell out just under €23 million for 85MHz in the four rural regions and 105 MHz in the cities.
Three Ireland will pay €20 million for 100Mhz frequency band on a national basis.
Meteor will pay close to €16 million for 80MHz in the rural areas and 85MHz in the cities, while Imagine, the largest wireless broadband provide, will pay €10 million for 60MHz in rural regions.
In its first foray into Ireland, the UK arm of US telco Airspan will pay €9.5 million for 25MHz in rural regions and 60MHz in the cities.
Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said the announcement would result in better and faster wireless services across rural Ireland and in urban areas.
“The level of frustration felt by people in rural Ireland at the lack of quality mobile and wireless broadband service is something that I have been working to address since becoming communications Minister,” he said.
“ Today’s announcement will mean an 86 per cent increase in spectrum capacity to meet the growing demand for mobile and wireless broadband service across rural and urban areas,” he said.
ComReg chairman Gerry Fahy said:"The result of the 3.6GHz award represents a very good outcome for consumers, service providers and ComReg."
He continued: “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,” Mr Fahey said.
“The outcome also produced new market entry with the potential for increased investment and innovation thereby enhancing competition and customer outcomes.”