Ireland’s 700MHz wireless spectrum band has a potential market value of €91m

14 Dec 2015

The savings from 700MHz spectrum for mobile operators could add up to €91m

Ireland’s 700MHz wireless spectrum band has a current market value of €91m and could be repurposed to be used by mobile operators to provide high-speed broadband services and enable the research and development of future internet of things (IoT) services.

This would treble the amount of radio spectrum currently available to mobile operators.

The spectrum could be repurposed by mobile operators and broadband providers to provide high-speed broadband in rural areas, as well as future IoT wireless devices.

Ireland’s telecoms watchdog ComReg today (14 December) issued a consultation on its strategy to manage the radio spectrum for Ireland, which included notes on the potential repurposing of 700MHz band in line with proposals by the World Radio Conference.

A plan to migrate broadcasting services such as digital terrestrial TV (DTT) services from the 700MHz signal will be completed in the second quarter of 2016.

In June, ComReg did a cost benefit analysis and found that if Ireland repurposed the 700MHz spectrum from its current use by terrestrial broadcasters and wireless microphones it could be worth €91m in the form of spending by mobile network operators on new equipment and other benefits in the wider economy.

The analysis published in June by ComReg based on research by Frontier Economics estimated that if the 700MHz band was repurposed in Ireland it would result in a total benefit of €103.5m with up front costs of €12.4m, yielding a net benefit of €91m.

The issue of 700MHz is a hot potato in Europe at present, with former EU Commissioner Pascal Lamy arguing the valuable 700MHz spectrum be used by Europe to achieve its Digital Agenda broadband targets. He has argued that 700Mhz spectrum band should be dedicated to wireless broadband across Europe by 2020.

4G auctions

The previous 4G spectrum auction in 2012 saw spectrum in the 800Mhz, 900MHz and 1800MHz licensed to Three, Meteor, Telefonica and Vodafone.

This resulted in an instant windfall of €450m to the Irish Government and overall fees worth €854.6m over the lifetime of the licences.

ComReg said it would have to work with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and 2RN to coordinate moving existing terrestrial TV services off the 700MHz band.

The freeing up of the frequency could also enable the test and trial of future wireless products and services to promote Ireland’s research and development agenda.

ComReg’s analysis currently values the contribution of radio spectrum-based services like mobile networks to be worth over €4.2bn to the economy.

The sector employs over 28,000 people and contributes to 2.4pc of Ireland’s GDP.

Wireless antennae image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years