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ComReg to auction radio spectrum in 2011 and 2012

7 Dec 2010

Ireland’s national telecoms regulator the Commission for Communication Regulation (ComReg) hopes to raise millions for government coffers next year through the sale of scarce radio frequency spectrum. The Sunday Business Post writes that the sale is likely to form part of the targeted EUR700 million (USD933 million) in additional revenue that the government is expected to raise through once-off initiatives in 2011, as part of the terms and conditions of the agreement reached with the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Two bands of spectrum, to be used by mobile operators and wireless broadband providers, are slated to be auctioned off before the end of 2011, while a third band of frequencies will become available towards the end of the following year. The third band relates to spectrum currently being used for analogue TV services. The Republic hopes to switch these services off before end-2012 as part of the country’s digital television switchover.

Commenting on the announcement, a spokesman for the watchdog said: ‘The release of this spectrum, to coincide with analogue switch off as recently announced by the [communications] minister [Eamon Ryan], will increase competition in mobile markets and provide greater consumer choice,’ adding, ‘The release of such spectrum may also provide opportunities for innovation in advanced mobile broadband.’

It is thought that ComReg is considering allowing a system of so-called ‘spectrum trading’ as one of the terms of the auction. Here, owners of spectrum would be free to use the wireless bandwidth for different purposes, he said. ComReg is also considering including plans to allow more infrastructure-sharing among spectrum-owners, as well as the introduction of ‘spectrum caps’.

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