ComReg’s auction of 4G spectrum ‘imminent’, but telcos’ frustration grows

9 Mar 2012

Ireland’s national telecoms regulator ComReg says it will soon auction 28 blocks of spectrum for new wireless licences (covering the period 2013 to 2030) suitable for Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile, but writes that its heel-dragging over the plan is frustrating operators’ plans to roll out 4G networks. The spectrum auction, which could generate revenue of EUR260 million (USD349 million) for the Dublin government, were slated to take place in February, but could now be pushed back to April or – as some telcos fear – even to June 2012. The re-farming of spectrum in the 900MHz band currently utilised for 2G/GSM would allow mobile operators to deliver 3G broadband internet in traditional GSM areas – theoretically providing blanket coverage of over 90% of the Republic – as well as offering 4G/LTE. However, the delay in conducting the auction is holding up ‘hundreds of millions of euros worth of capital investment’, as operators are wary of committing CAPEX until they hold the frequencies they need. ‘We don’t want to push ahead before ComReg auctions spectrum because they’ll find another way to pull the rug from under us,’ the online portal quotes an unnamed industry insider as saying. Until such time that the watchdog holds the tender, ‘We are sitting on our hands,’ the industry insider added. ‘We have the money sitting there to invest, the government wants us to invest but we’re stuck waiting for the auctions to begin.’