Irish telecoms regulator the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has raised EUR855 million (USD1.1 billion) from the sale of mobile frequencies capable of supporting fourth-generation (4G) services in the country, providing a welcome boost to the government’s coffers. ‘The proceeds of the auction are greater than many people expected and are a statement of confidence in the economy,’ Reuters quotes the Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte as saying on Thursday.
The Republic’s incumbent mobile operators Eircom-owned Meteor Mobile, Hutchison Whampoa’s H3G Ireland, Telefonica O2 Ireland and Vodafone Ireland each secured licences, agreeing to pay EUR481 million in total upfront and the balance over the term of the licences, which are due to expire in 2030. The minister did not give a deadline for the 4G networks to be operational but did herald the sale as an opportunity for operators to deploy services rapidly to help ‘maintain and boost [the] country’s competitiveness’.
O2 Ireland reportedly bid EUR125 million to secure its new 17-year licences and is planning to invest a further EUR200 million over the next three years to upgrade its network to 4G. 3 Ireland paid EUR51.1 million for its spectrum licences, while Meteor Mobile offered EUR145 million. Although Vodafone’s local unit has not divulged what it paid, based on the fees bid by its three rivals the cellco paid EUR159 million. All four operators have pledged to begin 4G upgrades next year.