Ireland inches closer to 4G wireless spectrum auction

19 Mar 2012

SiliconRepublic reports that Ireland’s national telecoms regulator ComReg has revealed further details about the forthcoming auction of wireless spectrum in the 800MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands covering the period 2013 to 2030, suitable for 4G services. The agency plans to conduct a further consultation on the sale process, but confirms the auction will now likely take place by this summer. Last week CommsUpdate reported that ComReg’s proposed auction of 28 blocks of spectrum (140MHz of paired spectrum in the sub-2GHz band) for new wireless licences suitable for Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile, was ‘imminent’, but that the government’s heel-dragging over the plan is frustrating operators’ plans to roll out 4G networks. Ireland’s Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte is now quoted as saying that he expects the auctions to take place before the summer, provided no objections are thrown up by the latest consultation phase. By licensing a total of 280MHz of spectrum, the state is effectively doubling the bandwidth available for 4G technologies operating in these bands.

The auction will be a combined ‘clock auction’ process whereby bidders will be able to submit package bids over multiple rounds, all within a pre-agreed timeframe. The winners will be those submitting the highest bid. In short, ComReg says: ‘The first phase of the auction will determine the quantity of spectrum that a winning bidder is awarded and the second phase will determine the exact frequencies within the spectrum bands … to accommodate the current expiry dates of GSM licence assignments, spectrum rights of use will be auctioned across two time periods, applicable to each of the three bands being auctioned. The first period will run from 1 February 2013 to 12 July 2015 and the second period will run from 13 July 2015 to 12 July 2030 … to safeguard competition, there will be limits on the maximum amount of spectrum rights of use that any one bidder can acquire, either as a single entity or in combination with other bidders.’ The reserve price has been set at EUR20 million per 2×5MHz block of sub-1GHz spectrum, and EUR10 million per 2×5MHz of 1800MHz spectrum. Winning bidders will be required to pay a portion of this amount up-front, with the remainder paid annually over the duration of the licence. The lots on offer are:

• 800MHz band – in the frequency range 791MHz-821MHz paired with 832MHz-862MHz, which comprises six paired 5MHz lots

• 900MHz band – in the frequency range 880MHz-915MHz paired with 925MHz-960 MHz, which comprises seven paired lots of 5MHz; and

• 1800MHz band – in the frequency range 1710MHz-1785MHz paired with 1805MHz-1880MHz, which comprises 15 paired 5MHz blocks.